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McHenry County heating companies give advice to stay warm during cold snap

If you've been without heat for part of the coldest day in more than 100 years, you're not alone.

Employees at Black Diamond Plumbing and Mechanics Inc. in McHenry juggled between 105 and 125 calls simultaneously Wednesday morning, said heating, ventilation and air conditioning manager Mike Thornton. While heating companies throughout the area work to make repairs and rent out space heaters, residents can try a number of fixes to troubleshoot an overworked furnace.

"The best thing you can do is make sure you have a clean filter," Thornton said. "It will help your furnace from shutting down."

Residents also should check that their furnace vents aren't obstructed indoors by blankets or curtains, or by ice and snow outdoors, he said.

"Other than that, wrap yourself in a blanket and wait for the warmer weather," Thornton said.

Residents who aren't without heat entirely might be experiencing another common problem, McHenry Heating and Air Conditioning employee Cassie Haney said.

"Mostly, their [heaters] are out, or they're not rising to temperatures that they need to be," she said.

Woodstock resident Janey Sheiffele Welch spent her morning nestled under a pile of blankets with her dog and a TV remote. Although her thermostat was set at 74 degrees, her home only was heating up to about 61 degrees, she said.

"If it gets much colder, I'll take my kid and my dog to a hotel for the night, leaving my [husband] behind to monitor the boiler, pipes, trickling faucet water, drafty windows and doors, etc.," she said "Not ideal, but when you live in [northern Illinois], you roll with it."

Keeping the thermostat at 76 degrees should generate enough heat to withstand the minus-44 degree temperatures and keep pipes warm, Thornton said. It also is a good idea to open cabinet doors to any plumbing that's near an outside wall, he said.

The wind chill warning for McHenry County will remain in effect until noon Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. The agency has discouraged people from braving the cold until then, noting that the dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite in as few as five minutes.

For anyone who finds themselves stranded in the cold, several locations throughout the county have established emergency warming centers.

McHenry County Public Action to Deliver Shelter has made adjustments to better function in the extreme cold temperatures, said Carrie Freund, director of homeless services for Pioneer Center PADS.

"For our guests who normally go to the church sites, [Wednesday] and [Thursday] night we’re going to be keeping those people out at PADS [in Woodstock]," she said. "For transportation issues, we feel like it’s the safest thing to keep them at our site."

A list of additional emergency shelters is available online at

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