Cold Chicago facts for now and then


Monday night the streets were sparsely traveled in the snow and frigid temperature by The 606 Damen overpass

With expectations that wind chill temperatures will get down to at least -55 or lower, there is an ever increasing list of closures and cancellations. 

Closures include Cook County Circuit Courts in the City; Chicago Public Schools (CPS) for students on Wednesday and Thursday; many events; and Amtrack services. 

Workers are encouraged to work from home and those who must work in an office or other site are warned about how to dress and act. 

For personal safety, people are encouraged to wear three layers on the top, with cotton not being the layer closest to the skin (cotton will retain water) and a waterproof layer on top. To protect one's lungs, experts say to avoid deep breathing and talking while outside. 

The basics are to stay warm and avoid hypothermia and frostbite. 


  • Frostbite can begin in under five minutes.
  • Pets taken outside should be out for the least amount of time.
  • Vehicle gas tanks should be kept full
  • Garage doors should have lubricant sprayed on the metal joints
  • Cell phone lithium batteries are said to lose their charge more quickly in the cold, be sure to monitor the battery levels. 

On Feb. 10, 1901, at 1419 N. Cleaver, Jan Zawilinski took this photo

While records may be broken, here are some historic facts:

What was the lowest recorded temperature in Chicago?

That was -27 on Jan. 20, 1985, when it reached -27.  The wind chill reached -60, with sustained winds around 25 mph, according to the National weather service. 

What was the greatest number of days in a month with a minimum of zero or less?

That was 17 days in January 1977 with 17 days.

What was the longest number of days with the temperature below freezing?

That was 43 days from Dec. 28, 1976, to Feb. 8, 1977.

What was the lowest recorded temperature in Chicago?

  • 1884-85 with 25 days
  • 1935-36 with 24 days
  • 1962-63 with 24 days
  • 1981-82 with 22 days
  • 1874-75 with 21 days
  • 1978-79 with 21 days
  • 1872-73 with 19 days
Photo sources: Damen Ave. by Elaine A. Coorens
1419 N. Cleaver by Jan Zawilinski in 1901, courtesy of The Polish Museum of America


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