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A severe winter storm will bring subzero temperatures to the Midwest this weekend

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Windy City? I'll say. Chicago is just the latest part of the country to face extreme weather this weekend. Snow, sleet and wind - temperatures expected to descend into single digits tonight. This comes as the city was scheduled to begin moving migrants out of city shelters. Member station WBEZ's Kate Grossman joins us. Kate, thanks for being with us.

KATE GROSSMAN, BYLINE: Good morning.

SIMON: Kate, Chicagoans know how to roll with snowy weather, don't we? What are the concerns about this particular snow?

GROSSMAN: Well, meteorologists here were predicting a possible blizzard. So, of course, that got people worried. And they were predicting what's known as heart attack snow. This comes from when, in 1987, about two dozen people died, mostly from the stress of shoveling in what's become known as the heart attack snowstorm. So here we have meteorologist Jake Petr explaining how the snow predicted for this storm is similar to that heavy 1987 snow.

JAKE PETR: Probably where it earned that name is when shoveling snow that is wetter, is heavier to move around - that can be more strain on the body.

GROSSMAN: So, thankfully, much of the worst predictions did not come to pass yesterday. There were a few inches in the city, though there was much as - as much as 6 to 8 in the suburbs. But it was definitely treacherous outside, but it was not a blizzard - 40- to 50-mile wind gusts and, you know, more than a thousand flights canceled, but not a blizzard. Still, the biggest concern is the cold coming. Expecting wind chills of minus 17 degrees tonight.

SIMON: Have Chicagoans gotten out of the practice of dealing with wintry weather in recent years, Kate?

GROSSMAN: As a lifelong Chicagoan, I would say yes. You know, it's been very mild so far this year. We had 50 degrees on Christmas Day here. So with climate change, you know, raising temperatures and causing variability in our weather, people just really are not used to it - this cold weather. And so when locals here heard about our first big snow coming, there was a lot of hype and hyperventilating - really? You know, but for some, of course, this is really justified. Not everyone in Chicago has history with this kind of weather. We have nearly 35,000 migrants who've come to the city since 2022, mostly from warm Latin America.

SIMON: And Chicago was going to begin moving them out of shelters after instituting a 60-day limit. What's happening with that?

GROSSMAN: Well, yesterday, Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said the city was pausing those plans to move immigrants - or move the migrants out after 60 days.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BRANDON JOHNSON: There are some exceptions to that policy, particularly during single-digit temperatures, as we are expecting within the next week or so.

GROSSMAN: So the mayor said they're pushing that eviction date until at least January 22. And overall, there are nearly 8,000 migrants who have received these 60-day notices - not clear how many of them have housing lined up. And this is really coming to a boil politically. Yesterday, Governor JB Pritzker of Illinois urged the Texas governor to stop sending migrants in this - to Illinois in this cold. He said, I'm appealing to your humanity. The governor's office said, sorry, we're still going to send them. And it's going to be in the - freezing temperatures here in Chicago.

SIMON: Kate Grossman. Thanks so much for being with us, and stay strong.

GROSSMAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Kate Grossman
Kate is Senior Editor for Enterprise at WBEZ and she leads the station’s amazing team of education reporters. Kate joined the station in late 2016 after serving as a director at the University of Chicago Institute of Politics. She also was awarded an IOP fellowship to teach a seminar on the Politics of School Reform. Before joining the IOP in 2015, Kate spent nearly 20 year as a print reporter and opinion writer. Most recently, she was Deputy Editorial Page Editor at the Chicago Sun-Times, where she wrote editorials on education, Illinois politics and city and state policy issues. She also ran the paper’s political endorsement process. Previously, Kate worked as a Sun-Times metro reporter, covering schools and public housing, and at the Associated Press, The Providence Journal and ABC 20/20 and she has freelanced for The Atlantic.com. Kate is a two-time winner of the national Education Writers Association top opinion writing award for editorials on the Chicago Public Schools and is a winner of the Studs Terkel Award for coverage of Chicago's diverse communities. She speaks publicly about schools and politics and is a frequent panelist on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight: The Week in Review. Kate lives in Chicago with her family.