Polar Vortex Freezes US With Wind Chills to Minus 65 Degrees

polar vortexStates in the north-central and northeastern U.S. will experience wind chill temperatures as low as minus 65 degrees, according to the National Weather Service (NWS) on Jan. 28, 2019. The Polar Vortex brings an extremely cold, dangerous and life-threatening artic air mass.

The Upper Midwest to the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley are in the midst of bitterly cold weather that is likely to continue through the end of the week. The storm is expected to spread across a large portion of the eastern two-thirds of the country, according to the NWS.

Reports indicate the polar vortex is one of the coldest in recent memory. NWS used Twitter to spread the warning of temperatures that can bring on frostbite within minutes. Although this part of the country experiences extremely cold weather each winter, the combination of the arctic blast and strong winds can be deadly.

Affected areas will see cold values dropping to between minus 30 to minus 50, the further north the lower the temps. Parts of Minnesota could experience wind chills in the minus 60s.

An NWS meteorologist explains, “These are probably some of the coldest temperatures that the area has seen, parts of the upper Midwest, since the mid-’90s,” according to NPR.

“The vortex is capable of delivering subzero temperatures to the United States and Canada for several days at a time,” according to AccuWeather.

In preparation of the extreme weather, public schools were closed, flights canceled and businesses sent their people home. The Polar Vortex led Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers to take executive action. At 9:58 a.m. CT. Evers tweeted a copy of the executive order and a statement:

Due to severe winter weather, I have declared a State of Emergency throughout the State of Wisconsin. I want to make sure all assets are available, including the Wisconsin National Guard if needed, to help communities across the state and keep people warm and safe.

City of Madison Fire Chief Steve Davis told NPR the ground was grassy about 10 days ago. He said, “‘I think we’ve gotten 20 inches [of snow] in the last nine days.'”

polar vortexDavis explained that they are used to dealing with the snow. However, when a polar vortex drives the temps downward, there are additional factors to consider. He adds, one that arises is with buildings, even those built to withstand cold temperatures. “We see a lot of pipe-freezing. We run into issues occasionally with our water supply system in the city. If the frost drives down, it can break water mains.”

In Minneapolis, Minnesota, schools were closed on Monday with the announcement that they would remain closed through Wednesday. Students in eastern Iowa and Chicago also had snow days.

The Chicago Zoological Society announced the Brookfield Zoo would be closed on Wednesday and Thursday to “ensure the safety of employees and animals.” HuffPost noted that in the 85-year history the zoo had closed only three times before.

What is a Polar Vortex?

AccuWeather offers the best explanation about the polar vortex; a large pocket of extremely cold air that sits over the polar region during the winter season. It is generally the coldest air in the Northern Hemisphere.

When the polar vortex is pushed further south, the icy air can reach southern Canada and the Midwest and northeastern regions in the United States.

For this phenomena to occur a large, powerful high-pressure system is needed to displace the vortex. This system originates in the Eastern or Western Pacific and stretches to the North Pole.

“These high-pressure systems can reach Alaska, but it is not typical to stretch all the way to the North Pole,” according to AccuWeather.com Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson.

Remember to remain hydrated, refrain from going outdoors unless absolutely necessary, and reach out to neighbors or shut-ins who might be in need. Once the system from the Pacific weakens, the polar vortex will return to the North Pole and the frigid weather will subside until the next front hits.

Written by Cathy Milne-Ware

Sources:

HuffPost: Polar Vortex Clobbers Midwest With Record-Breaking Cold
NPR: Polar Vortex Hits The Midwest With Life-Threatening Cold
AccuWeather: What is a polar vortex?

Featured and Inset Images Courtesy of Ann Fisher’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License
Top Image Courtesy of Tony Webster’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

Leave a Reply