ILLINOIS (WCIA) — Tuesday, Governor Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation to help communities prepare for the dangerously low temperatures.
The freezing temperatures have prompted offices and schools across the state to close. Now, lawmakers are joining that group. They were in session Tuesday, but they’re off the rest of the week.
It doesn’t happen often; it’s rare. People who’ve been around the Capitol for decades can only count one, maybe two times session was canceled because of cold temperatures. One was in 1999 during an ice storm.
Lawmakers were ready to work, but it looks like warnings from Tuesday morning’s press conference finaly set in.
“This is very serious weather and my administration is not underestimating the gravity of this and how we respond.”
It’s all hands on deck as the state prepares for historic freezing temperatures which, in some areas, could feel like -50 degrees.
“Some of the records that we’re looking at go back to the late 1800s. We haven’t seen temperatures close to this in almost 40-years.”
Tuesday morning, Pritzker issued a disaster proclamation to help cities, hospitals and first responders. He was joined by state agency leaders who echoed his warning.
“The main thing is you don’t want to ignore shivering. That is the first sign that your body is losing heat and that you’re on the path to hypothermia.”
Chris Miller, with the National Weather Service, says cold temperatures have killed roughly 700 people in Illinois since 2007.
“This is more than tornadoes, floods, heat, lightning and severe storms combined, so this is a very serious situation.”
They’re urging everyone to stay indoors and off the roads. Many are taking the warnings seriously. Dozens of schools and businesses statewide are closing.
“I’ll close my district office because I have students who take public transportation.”
At the Statehouse, lawmakers willing to let their staff off vowed to weather the storm.
“I thought this was Illinois. This is temperatures you expect in Minnesota, but it’s pretty severe.”
“It’s crazy. Last night, I was just in my car checking my radiators.”
By the afternoon, lawmakers were called out for the week, joining thousands who will be cooped up at home as temperatures plummet. State officials really want people to stay home if possible. If you have to drive, keep a cellphone nearby in case of emergency.
The worst will be Wednesday. Lawmakers will be back next week, once the weather warms up.
Some important tips for people looking for a place to get warm: IEMA has created a list of warming centers by county. If you can’t find one in your area, call your county emergency center.
Every Department of Human Services Office will be turned into warming centers during business hours.
For more information, click here.