CHICAGO (Reuters) – Hundreds of thousands of children in Chicago, the third-largest U.S. school district, stayed home on Wednesday as weather forecasters warned of dangerously low temperatures in a cold front across the Upper Midwest.
The district closed all of its nearly 800 schools for the day as a precautionary measure due to forecasts of temperatures 20 to 30 degrees below average.
There were also some delays of buses and elevated trains due to the weather.
The National Weather Service issued wind chill alerts for cities including Chicago and Detroit. Temperatures in the Chicago area could fall to 30 below to 40 below zero degrees Fahrenheit (-34 to -40 Celsius) through Thursday morning, the weather service said, warning of the danger of frost bite.
Cook County, which includes Chicago and surrounding areas, asked residents to “stay indoors and refrain from outdoor winter activities” and closed sledding hills and cross-country and snowmobiling locations.
The school closure meant a morning scramble for many parents.
Kim Dooley, 52, of Chicago was on the elevated train into work after rushing to find a nanny for her 6-year-old, special-needs daughter.
“People aren’t as hardy as they used to be,” she said. “They’re coddling kids too much.”
But Stephanny Buitron, 25, a native Chicagoan and a former Chicago Public Schools student on her way to work, agreed with closings.
She said she had to wait 25 minutes for a bus but was protected with three pairs of pants, two pairs of socks and three sweaters under her coat.
Despite the “awful” cold, she said she would not move. “You get used to Chicago. You adapt.”
In Minneapolis, where the temperature was 8 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, commuters left their parka hoods up inside the trains, and pedestrians were walking with their hands over their faces.
One woman regretted rushing out the door and to get to work, forgetting her usual winter gear.
Hodan Ahms, 23, was huddling under the outdoor heater at a light rail transit stop on the way to work, without a hat or gloves, on her way to her job at the Mall of America.
“It’s so cold,” she said.
In Chicago, Dooley said her family takes precautions like leaving the water running so the pipes do not freeze.
Pets should be indoors, the weather service said.