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Winter Weather and Storage in Chicago


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Chicago isn't called the Windy City for nothing. In wintertime, wind gusts off of Lake Michigan can take Chicago cold to a new level. The city's lowest temperature ever was a startling -27 degrees back in 1985, which says something about just how cold this town can get.1 When the temperature drops, people think about getting inside, warming up, and forgetting the chill.

However, it's important to remember the belongings you're keeping out in the cold. If you have anything in storage, you need to bear in mind the conditions of the storage facility. What effect will the dropping temperatures and icy snow have on your stored items?


Winter brings a whole host of questions about cold-weather storage in Chicago. Pipes can regularly freeze in the winter, and snow and ice build-up can cause heating problems, roof and wall damage, and even structural collapses. Are your stored belongings in a safe building? Is the management prepared to do wintertime maintenance on the property and keep you informed if there are any problems? When renting a storage place, be sure to ask these questions.

The Storage Space

No matter what time of year you rent your space, consider the conditions likely to occur at other times of the year. A ray of sunlight or two peeking through a damaged roof in the summer might not seem like a big deal, but remember that when winter comes, those tiny cracks could signal snow build-up and water damage.

The common-sense approach is to take a quick inventory of what you are storing. Is anything going to be affected by exposure to low temperatures? As you make your decision, keep the following concerns in mind:

  • Electronics - Cold temperatures will sap the batteries very quickly. However, electronics generally won't suffer any long-term damage as long as they're kept dry.2
  • Liquids - Did you tuck your Chicago commemorative water globe away in a box? What about any toys or novelties that have liquid in them? It's important to remember that anything liquid - even some chemicals - will freeze in winter temperatures. Be sure to remove freeze-risk items before winter or ensure that the space is properly insulated.
  • Vehicles - A vehicle in long-term winter storage is almost certain to have a dead battery by the time spring comes. As mentioned, some chemicals can freeze, so be sure to check that chemicals have not burst their compartments under the hood (or in the trunk if you carry extra liquids). Tires go flat when exposed to prolonged cold air, so be ready to inflate them before you take the car out of storage.
  • Fragile Items - If there is anything breakable or delicate in your space, be sure to bundle it up well and make sure it's well-situated for a long winter. Cold air can make glass or other items more brittle and prone to break.

What to Expect from a Chicago Winter

Chicago winters are hard to predict. In 2011-2012, only 19.8 inches of snow were recorded. However, the four winters prior to that saw more than 52 inches of snow each year. January is typically the coldest month of the year in Chicago, with lows averaging about 16.5 degrees.3 December, February and March all see temperatures below freezing, but the rest of the year stays above 32 degrees.4

What This Means for You

It's best to be on the safe side and realize that in the Windy City, winter is going to get very chilly. As a storage renter, the following answers to the following questions are important to bear in mind:

  • What am I storing?
  • Is any of it at high risk for damage or destruction in cold weather?
  • Is my storage space ready for winter?
  • If anything unfortunate does occur, what is the next step?

If you're planning on storing anything through the cold months, be sure to use heated storage in Chicago that has the means to protect your belongings from damage.

1 National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office.

2 Popular Mechanics. "Does Cold Weather Injure Cell Phones?"

3 National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office. "January Normals for Chicago for Temperature, Precipitation and Snowfall,"

4 National Weather Service Weather Forecast Office. "February Normals for Chicago for Temperature, Precipitation and Snowfall,"

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