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Polar Vortex Strikes, Bitter Cold Scenes From Around the Country

Americans around the country are finding humorous ways to survive the polar vortex, including blowing ice bubbles and freezing their pants.

This week the continental U.S. is freezing, or at least 75 percent of the continental U.S. will dip below freezing at some point this week thanks to the “polar vortex.”

The polar vortex is not a storm but rather a weather phenomenon that happens when a circulation of cold air that is normally locked in Arctic regions gets distorted and dips southward.

The polar vortex is essentially a circulation of strong upper-level arctic winds that circulate in a counter-clockwise direction. The winds keep the cold arctic air up north, but occasionally the strength of the winds changes in intensity and can cause a break in the tight circulation, resulting in a jet stream that plunges south and allows the cold arctic air to descend southward as well.

The polar vortex doesn’t necessarily mean snowstorms and blizzards are to follow, it just means extremely cold air but the cold air alone is enough to wreak havoc and the possibility of snow still exists.

Michigan, Wisconsin and Illinois have already declared states of emergency and many businesses and schools are closed while waiting for temperatures to warm up. That warm-up should only be days away as most weather forecasts predict the cold air to start letting up around Friday.

Polar Vortex, Coldest Air in a Generation

The Weather Channel is calling the polar vortex the coldest it’s ever been in a generation. Six deaths have already been attributed to the polar vortex and 67,000 people are without power in the MidWest.

Major universities including the University of Notre Dame, the University of Minnesota, the University of North Dakota, the University of Wisconsin, the University of South Dakota and Iowa State University all shut down due to the cold temperatures.

Even the United States Postal Service took the rare step to close and suspend mail delivery in parts of the Midwest including North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and Illinois.

Given temperatures reached a wind chill of -66 degrees Fahrenheit in Minnesota overnight and wind chills of -58 degrees Fahrenheit in Wisconsin and Iowa, it’s hard to blame the postal service for taking the day off from their  motto, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

Concern for Homeless Population

The homeless population in the MidWest is a major concern for states as hypothermia can set in within an hour. Washington, D.C., New York and Boston have a “right to shelter” law during hypothermic events which means shelters are not allowed to turn any homeless away. While all three cities are being impacted by the polar vortex, Chicago is the most severely affected major city in the U.S.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said city officials are making sure the homeless are in shelters or offered space in five Chicago Transit Authority buses, as the AP reported.

The Salvation Army also told the Weather Channel that they are conducting welfare checks, providing meals at shelters, delivering cold weather gear packages, and deploying mobile feeding and “homeless outreach units” to 31 locations in Chicago.

Michigan also reported their homeless shelters were becoming overloaded.

Polar Vortex Delays Travel

Flights have been delayed at airports around the country and train travel has been disrupted. On Wednesday alone over 1,900 flights were canceled around the country.

Chicago took the unusual step to light train tracks on fire to prevent them from contracting due to the cold.

States have also struggled to keep up with road conditions. As the Weather Channel reported, an Indiana State Trooper tweeted Wednesday that Interstate 65 was becoming a “parking lot with broken down semis.” Master Trooper Glen Fifield said the problem stems from fuel filters freezing and gelled fuel.

Minnesota also canceled snowplow services for 11 counties due to the cold causing mechanical problems with snowplows.

Polar Vortex: How Americans are Toughing it Out Around the Country


Lauren von Bernuth

Lauren is one of the co-founders of Citizen Truth. She graduated with a degree in Political Economy from Tulane University. She spent the following years backpacking around the world and starting a green business in the health and wellness industry. She found her way back to politics and discovered a passion for journalism dedicated to finding the truth.

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