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Brutal cold on the way Monday, daytime highs below zero

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CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) -

Lots of freezing pipes, long underwear and cars that refuse to start.

These things are expected to arrive Monday along with a cold front that could bring the most frigid weather Chicagoans have ever experienced.

Weather tools: Forecast | Interactive Radar | Watches & Warnings

The record of minus 27 was set Jan. 20, 1985.

Monday's high will be 6 below zero, according to the National Weather Service. The low, expected to arrive in the evening, is predicted to reach minus 20, the weather service said.

"Breaking the record is not impossible," said National Weather Service Meteorologist Gino Izzi.

"And wind chills are just going to be ungodly," said Izzo, who noted that intermittent gusts up to 30 mph will hit the Chicago area Friday night and stick around for several days, bringing wind chills of approaching minus 50.

"It's conceivable that for 48 hours, or more, it will be below zero," Izzi said.

Friday morning temperatures in the Loop are expected to be about zero.

Starting at 4 p.m. Friday, a winter weather advisory goes into effect for all Chicago-area counties because 25 mph winds could whip up snow already on the ground, causing low visibilities and near-blizzard conditions, the weather service said.

Weather on the East Coast is causing 45 minute delays Friday at O'Hare International Airport, where more than 210 flights have been canceled, according to the city's Department of Aviation. At Midway, about two dozen flights are delayed an average of two hours, and 90 flights have been canceled.

Southwest Airlines is also operating on a reduced schedule at Midway Airport, the department said.

Temperatures will only show noticeable improvement by midweek, when the highs are forecast to reach into the teens — and even that isn't close to the normal high for this time of year, which is in the low 30s.

State and local officials on Thursday urged residents to take caution, and check on elderly relatives and neighbors after the bitter cold arrives.

"If the matter can wait until the weather gets warmer, let it wait," the city Department of Public Health's Dr. Suzet McKinney told reporters at the Office of Emergency Management on the Near West Side.

Anyone who needs a warm place to go can visit any Illinois Department of Human Services office between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. All tollway oases are open 24 hours a day.

Residents can also call their local municipality or township to find a warming center close to them.

Seniors in particular are encouraged to stock up on non-perishable food supplies and medications before the extreme cold snap, dress in layers and avoid shoveling or walking in deep snow, state officials said.

All drivers should be cautious while traveling, and make sure vehicles have a full tank of fuel and properly inflated tires, according to the Illinois Tollway, which will have patrols ready to help motorists stranded in the subzero temperatures.

Motorists should also carry a cold weather safety kit, which includes a flashlight with batteries, blankets and warm clothes, road flares and food and water, the tollway said.

Weather this cold could cause frostbite and hypothermia, and infants and the elderly are more susceptible to these conditions, according to the state Department of Public Health.

Health officials recommend staying inside if possible. If you have to go out, wear several layers of lightweight clothing, as the air between the layers acts as insulation. Wear a hat to keep body heat from escaping, cover your face and wear mittens rather than fingered gloves, the department recommends.

Inside the home, residents should make sure all cracks in doors and windows are repaired, or use towels or newspapers for a quick fix, the Cook County Department of Health says.

Do not use an oven as a heating device, and read all directions before using a space heater, according to the health department.

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