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Eric Finney, 29, of Muskegon walks along a snow covered Forest Avenue near the Seventh Street intersection in Muskegon while on the way to visit a friend on Monday Jan. 27, 2014. Sub-zero wind chills and additional snow forced the closing of areas schools. (AP Photo/The Muskegon Chronicle, Ken Stevens)
C-c-c-cold k-k-k-keeps Midwesterners indoors
First Published Jan 27 2014 09:48 pm • Last Updated Jan 27 2014 10:14 pm

Chicago • Parents brought kids to work or just stayed home because schools were closed, again. Office workers hailed cabs to ride a block — or less. And companies offering delivery services were inundated with business as Arctic air blasted the central U.S. on Monday for the second time in weeks, disrupting the lives of even the hardiest Midwesterners.

As temperatures and wind chills plummeted throughout the day Monday, even simple routines were upended by the need to bundle up, with anyone venturing outdoors advised to layer up with clothing, coats, hats, scarves and gloves. And there’s no quick relief in sight as subzero highs were expected to dominate across the region into Tuesday.

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"This is similar to what we had three weeks ago" in terms of life-threatening conditions, said Sarah Marquardt, a National Weather Service meteorologist. "With wind chills in the minus 30 to minus 40 range, you can get frostbite within 10 minutes on exposed skin."

In Chicago, temperatures had fallen below zero by Monday afternoon and wind chills sunk into the negative double-digits.

"We had two [employees] call in because they couldn’t come to work because of the school closings, and another called in sick," said Kristelle Brister, the manager of a Chicago Starbucks, who was forced to bring her 9-year-old son to work after the city shut down its 400,000-student school system for the day.

Residents of Minnesota and Wisconsin faced similar if even somewhat more severe weather.

Wind chills in the minus 40s were expected in Minneapolis, while in Milwaukee the chill hit minus 23 by mid-afternoon. Elsewhere, wind chills of minus 18 were expected in Dayton, Ohio, minus 14 in Kansas City, Mo., and minus 3 in Louisville, Ky.

The chill Monday was enough to keep even the hardiest people off the streets, including the customers of the Hollywood Tan salon in the southwestern Illinois’ community of Belleville.

"It’s definitely a lot slower," said salon manager Kelly Benton, who wasn’t expecting anything near the 100 tanners the salon sees on a typical day.

But the chill didn’t keep crowds from Tiny Tots and Little Tykes Preschool and Child Care Center in West St. Paul, Minn., where the cold weather means a lot more jumping rope and riding around on scooters — anything to escape cabin fever and let kids burn off energy.


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"We’re just trying to keep them busy, but it’s definitely more of a challenge when you can’t get outside," said ManaRae Schaan, the executive director.

The brutally cold weather has brought a spike in business for GrubHub Seamless, a company that lets users order food online from restaurants and have the food delivered. People also seem to appreciate the drivers more, with Mack saying that during the Polar Vortex earlier this month, tipping was up by double digits in Detroit, Cleveland, Minneapolis, Chicago. And, for some reason, deliveries of buffalo chicken sandwiches jumped 37 percent.

"You figure people are probably being more generous to their drivers because their drivers are the ones braving the conditions while you’re on your couch in your pajamas," Mack said.

Chicago cabdriver Kumar Patel said the cold translates into bigger tips for him, too.

But the chill also seems to trigger some bad behavior as well, he said.

"They get in and they say they have to smoke because it’s so cold," Patel said.

Still, he said, he can pick up a lot of fares in a short time. "They are going a block, sometimes only a half block," Patel said.



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