The Coldest Day In Chicago History

We just got back from the dog park, you guys. We did it. We survived.

My hands are numb, my nose is running, and my eyelashes are still a little frozen, but at least I got Har outside to take care of business.

If we hit -27 tomorrow, which the forecasters are predicting we will, we are about to endure the coldest day in CHICAGO HISTORY EVER. The windchill, or “feels like temp,” is expected to be around -55.

If you can’t wrap your head around this, nor can I. It’s 1 degree now. Yesterday it was 28 degrees and dare I say it felt almost balmy.

They said on the news yesterday that when windchill hits -50 frostbite can happen within five minutes… the park where I take Har 3-5 times a day is about a four minute walk, so I guess I better walk fast.

So here’s the thing. I grew up in Northeastern Nebraska, so it’s not like cold weather is new to me. What’s new-ish to me however, is living in a city when it’s brutally cold. A city where you walk most places, don’t have a yard, and if you do happen to drive, good luck finding a parking place on that same block. Granted, this is my 8th winter in Chicago, but the pain of it still manages to surprise me every year.

See in Nebraska we had these very luxurious things called garages. You put your car in them and then you walk five steps from your warm-house, to your less-warm garage, to your already-heated-up-car and maybe just maybe have to be outside for a total of 1-3 seconds.

Garages, like yards, are hard to come by in the city. I’ve heard of people who have them, but then again they may just be an urban legend. Two years ago we upgraded from street parking to a gated parking lot behind our condo and let me tell you, that in itself is quite the treat. Sure, we still have to scrape our windows and let our car run for about ten minutes before getting into it, but at least we don’t have to dig our car out of the street, then leave out our storage containers and lawn furniture to claim our spot. “Parking dibs,” as Chicagoans call it. Google it, people can get pretty humorous with their dibs.

I believe it was the winter of 2015 when I spent at least 45 minutes shoveling our car out of a street parking spot and when I was done I had never felt more triumphant. It was in that moment when I felt I could finally start to call Chicago my home.

But when I think about being really cold, the winter that sticks out to me is the Polar Vortex of 2014. This is when Chris and I were living in a teeny tiny garden level apartment and the night the vortex arrived we could actually feel the cold front moving in. It woke us up from our sleep and we had to put on more layers and bring in more space heaters just to warm up.

In 2014 the coldest temp reached -16. Refer to up above to see what we’re expected to reach tomorrow…

People often ask me what it feels like to step outside in this kind of cold and the simplest way to describe it is to say it hurts, the air, I mean. It immediately stings any spot of skin left uncovered. And if you take too big of a breath you start to cough, like you’ve swallowed a big cloud of smog or something. Any moisture on your body starts to freeze within a minute or two. When I say moisture I’m talking about your eyes and your nose; ie your boogers. It’s gross, but true.

When you try to take a hot shower to warm up, your chilled skin goes crazy and it doesn’t know if the water is steaming hot or freezing cold, so all you feel is a burning sensation for the first few minutes. Are my hands on fire or completely frozen? I can never tell!

But the worst part of this cold weather… is that it’s all anyone can talk about. HI, HELLO. Have we met?

No, I’m kidding, that’s not the worst part (although it’s annoying I am obviously very guilty of it.) The worst part is thinking about the animals left outside and the people with nowhere to get heat. I am praying that people will step up and report neighbors that leave their dogs out in these extreme temps. Please please please speak up for those who cannot.

I’ve had a box of gloves and coats ready to take to the people that live under the bridge near my house, but I’m happy to report they haven’t been around in a few days. When I say “happy to report” I am hoping this means they’ve found a warmer shelter for the time being.

And that’s enough weather talk for today. I’ll be back tomorrow with something more exciting, probably the weather.


For dogs, I recommend these booties and this wax. I rub it on Har’s paws to keep them from cracking or getting too painful due to salt and cold temps.

*affiliate links.


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