Pinoys stranded in homes as snowstorm hits Illinois

By Henni Espinosa, ABS-CBN North America News Bureau

Posted at Jan 08 2014 04:26 PM | Updated as of Jan 09 2014 12:43 AM

The Chicago skyline is seen beyond the arctic sea smoke rising off Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois, January 6, 2014. Photo by Jim Young, Reuters

Frozen Chicago dubbed as "Chiberia"

REDWOOD CITY - One of the coldest arctic outbreaks in 20 years has swept through many parts of America, bringing record-setting temperatures to the east, midwest and south in the last few days.

So far, at least 21 people have died because of the severe weather.

It got so cold that even parts of Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River turned to ice.

The more than 36-hour stretch of subzero temperatures has left many kababayans stranded in their homes in Illinois, including Chicago.

Illinois resident Connie Macatula-de Leon said the only way to survive is to stay indoors.

"In a matter of seconds, you can die either hypothermia or frostbite," she said.

It doesn't matter that she's expecting to pay at least $500 this month for her heating bill, just as long as she can keep her family safe and warm.

"We set the heat at 68 degrees and it's all day. All day siyang umaandar, kasi can you imagine outside, it's negative 50?" she added.

De Leon's friend, Cathy Junia, lives 40 minutes away in the windy city of Chicago, which has now been dubbed as "Chiberia".

Junia took photos of her snow-covered Wicker Park neighborhood.

"I don't know what real frostbite feels like but it almost felt like my fingers were going to fall off yesterday," she said.

Her parents from the Philippines are there on vacation and what used to be winter wonderland for them has become unbearably cold. They're now stuck in her apartment for days.

But she feels fortunate they can stay indoors.

Junia said her heart goes out to those who have no choice but to work outside and those who have to live on the streets.

"Just walking past and seeing them wondering how people can even survive this cold. Kung kami nga sandaling lakad lang, sakit na sakit na," she said.

Kababayans said while they do miss living in the Philippines, snow storms have become part of their lives in America. Like the resilient Filipinos that they are, they said that they will continue to brave the weather.