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 Artic air blasted the central United States 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 being well advised to layer up with coats, hats, scarves, gloves and other clothing.
And there’s no quick relief in sight as highs below zero were expected to dominate across the region into Tuesday.
“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, with wind chills in 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 weather.
Wind chills of 40 degrees below zero were expected in Minneapolis, while in Milwaukee, the wind chill hit 23 below zero by midafternoon. Elsewhere, wind chills of 18 below were expected in Dayton, Ohio, 14 below in Kansas City, Mo., and 3 below 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 some energy.
“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.
“Across the board, restaurant and delivery drivers are dealing with an influx of orders,” Allie Mack, a spokeswoman for the company, said in an e-mail.
Not only that, but people seem to appreciate the drivers more, with Mack saying that during the Polar Vortex this month, tipping was up by double digits in Detroit, Cleveland, Minneapolis and 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 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.
In Milwaukee, Michael Comerford, a 33-year-old barista, said Monday that he is making far fewer lattes than normal but expects the trend to reverse once the severe chill subsides.
It is the same for Brandon Kulosa, whose business is getting rid of critters that become dissatisfied with their homes and move into ours.
“They hunker down when it gets this cold,” said Kulosa, co-owner of Animal Trackers Wildlife in suburban Chicago.
He said the ones that already have gotten into attics seem to recognize they have it pretty good and should not draw attention to themselves and risk eviction.
“You could have a raccoon up in your attic just sleeping,” said his partner, Tony Miltz. “They’re not going anywhere.”