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City to residents: Stay home Monday if you can

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Evanston city officials are encouraging residents to stay home on Monday and avoid being outside during what's expected to be extremely cold weather.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says city offices will be open Monday but only essential staff will be on duty.

"Our main message for residents is to stay home if you can," Bobkiewicz said during an early-afternoon teleconference with reporters.

"Use your own discretion," Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl added. "People in Evanston are very smart, but this is a really dire sub-zero event."

The Robert Crown Center is open as a warming center today and Parks Director Joe McRae said said all city recreation centers will be open Monday.

Several events are underway at Crown today, McRae added, so it's not clear how many people are actually there now just to keep warm.

The main library downtown is also open for its regular Sunday hours. (Update 5:30 p.m.: The library board has decided to close all Evanston's library branches on Monday. They'll reopen Tuesday. And materials due on Monday will have their due date extended until Tuesday.)

Northwestern University and Evanston/Skokie School District 65 have announced they'll be closed Monday. (Update 2:45 p.m.: Evanston Township High School now has also cancelled classes on Monday.)

Police Chief Richard Eddington said his department has been able to be "more nimble" in responding to this year's storm than to the 2011 blizzard, because the department has more vehicles equipped with all-wheel drive.

And, so far, he said, police have seen "nothing out of the ordinary" from the storm, "no increase in calls for service."

Fire Chief Greg Klaiber said fire and ambulance crews have seen normal call volume as well so far.

He said the department has added staff for a third ambulance today through Tuesday and will staff a rescue squad unit as well that's normally not staffed — so that if there is a fire, it can be used as a warming shelter for firefighters.

Utilities Director Dave Stoneback said crews are dealing with one water main break in northwest Evanston today and that pumping operations at the water plant are normal. So far there've been no icing conditions at the intake pipes to interfere with drawing water from the lake.

He said that as the cold weather sends frost deeper into the ground it can cause water main breaks, "so we may get some." He also said there's a danger of pipes freezing in home crawl spaces or along exterior walls, "so we anticipate those types of issues over the next couple of days."

Update 5:35 p.m.: Garbage and recycling pickups and commercial trash pickups will be delayed by one day this week in Evanston. Public Works Director Suzette Robinson says landfills will be closed because of the frigid temperatures and transfer stations don't have enough capacity.

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