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Local municipalities deal with dangerous deep freeze

By Joe Boyle

Southwest suburban residents were warned before the big chill arrived this week.

Temperatures plummeted well below zero on Tuesday night and were expected to drop as low as 25 degrees below on Wednesday evening. The National Weather Service said the temperatures could even break the record of 27 below on Jan. 20, 1985. Temperatures will hover at about zero today (Thursday, Jan. 31) before “warming up” into the 20s on Friday.

Oak Lawn Mayor Sandra Bury said weather reports she has received indicated that temperatures will still be well below zero on Thursday morning before finally reaching zero later in the afternoon.

Bury said a skeleton crew was scheduled to work at the Oak Lawn Village Hall on Wednesday. She said that she was going to stop by Village Hall during the day and make a series of stops before going home for the evening.

“The first thing is safety,” Bury said. “If you don’t have to go out, then don’t. I’m especially concerned for seniors and kids. I’m also concerned about pets. Keep them in the house. “

She added that often people are reluctant to call 911 when they see a situation that may be troubling. The mayor stated that residents who are concerned about a senior or someone they have not seen in a while during these sub-zero temperatures should call 911.

“This is very challenging,” Bury added. “We are going to put in new water meters that will allow residents to know almost instantly if there is a problem. This will be especially good for snowbirds who are away from home and will be contacted if there is a problem. But we don’t have them yet and it will be sometime before they are installed.”

Sue Lehr, the new director of the Hickory Hills Public Works Department, said that preparation is the key before dealing with the arctic blast.

“The more people are prepared, the better off they will be,” Lehr said. “Keep in contact with the elderly and the disabled.”

Lehr added that many residents are signed up for the city’s Code Red System with the Hickory Hills Police Department. The phone system will provide updates to residents about the current weather conditions and who to call in case of problems that occur or if an emergency happens.

“You should also drip the faucets and to keep doors open in the house to allow heat to circulate through the home,” Lehr said. “Also, change the furnace filters. If they are dirty, they furnace won’t work properly.”

Lehr added that the Hickory Hills Community Center, 7800 W. 89th Place, has been utilized as a warming center during this cold spell. She added that residents can also do their part to keep their homes as warm as possible.

“The doors that have been closed for two years should be open,” Lehr said. “It is important to have heat going through the house. You don’t want to block the heat during these temperatures.”

Nick Oeffling, the commissioner of the Palos Hills Public Works Department, said that they are available if an emergency arises. He said that information is posted on their website about who to contact if problems occur because of the freezing temperatures.

“I’m concerned about frozen water pipes or if the pipes burst,” Oeffling said. “Sewage could then be a problem. Residents can call City Hall during business hours or 911 at night if it is an emergency.”

Oeffling added that if residents lose electrical power then immediately call ComEd. They can assist residents to local warming centers, he said.

The Evergreen Park Public Works Department said in a release they were prepared to deal with the subzero cold. They also advised motorists to keep vehicles filled with a full tank of gas. Homeowners should not use stoves as room heaters.

Bury added that she is concerned about vacant homes in Oak Lawn. It is usually several days after freezing cold subsides that water damage in these structures becomes prevalent, she said.

But the Oak Lawn mayor said that she is proud of the efforts of village employees who are working hard to keep residents safe during this deep freeze.

“I want to give a shout out to all the workers in the (Oak Lawn) Public Works Department,” Bury said. “I respect the job the first responders do, but we don’t want to forget about our public works employees who have to work in these conditions. They are our unsung heroes.”

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