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Record Arctic Cold Sweeps the U.S

Skyline Infographic - Illinois (Chicago)

This winter in the U.S has turned out to be pretty severe for most of the country. In particular, the east coast, Midwest, and the Great Lakes region have been hit hard by arctic cold and heavy snowfall. In Chicago, along Lake Michigan alone, icebreaker ships have been needed to clear through ice on the lake. Nearly half of the population of the U.S has been in some way affected by the string of winter storms and arctic temperatures. Boelimetanab Huge swaths of the country have been subject to regular snowstorms, surges of arctic wind, and freezing rains causing significant damages from ice accumulation. Flights have been delayed and cancelled, highways have been closed, and hundreds of thousands have been left without power in the worst cold in decades. The weather of 2014 so far in Chicago and across the U.S has been harsh no matter how you look at it.


A Polar Vortex


The rush of arctic air across the Midwest is being called a polar vortex due to the air migrating south from the north pole. In some areas, namely Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois and other Midwestern states, temperatures have plummeted to the negative double digits. The record cold has led to school and business closures and complicated transportation locally and regionally. Thousands of airline flights have been cancelled and delayed, icy roads and massive snow accumulation have impeded interstate transit and forced the cancellation and closure of daily events and business operations–largely across the northeast and Midwest. The wave of polar air is being considered the worst cold in decades in the U.S in terms of scale and intensity.

The cold is so bad that many cities are issuing emergency alerts against the cold–calling attention to the risk to personal safety. This polar vortex is so intense in some places that even short exposure to the open air and wind can freeze skin. Temperatures as low as -40 F have been registered in North Dakota and cities like Minneapolis and Chicago are registering consistent temperatures in the negative 20s and 30s. With the wind chill, these temperatures are quickly falling into the negative 40s and 50s. In the aftermath of the Hercules snowstorm that hit the northeast last week, arctic airs pushed down into the U.S and initiated a bout of extreme cold unfelt in nearly twenty years in some places.


Emergency Cold Preparedness


Much of the country has been caught off guard by this degree of cold, particularly in areas unaccustomed to temperatures in the negative double digits. Much of the Midwest has been placed under emergency alert due to the dangerous conditions and immobilizing cold. School has been cancelled and businesses closed across the Midwest and northeast–even in states hardened by annual winter cold. Minnesota cancelled classes throughout the state on Monday for the first time in 17 years.

In Indianapolis, the mayor issued a red emergency travel alert making it illegal for anyone to drive outside of emergencies or to find shelter.  Chicago is also no stranger to severe winter weather and frigid temperatures, but this winter weather has been an anomaly for the early days of the new year and represents a real threat to people, livestock, and even winter crops. The best thing anyone can do in this severe cold and icy weather is to stay indoors as much as possible and keep warm. Take steps to guard against frozen pipes and make sure you have adequate supplies to remain as self sufficient as possible to avoid having to leave the house too often. If you must go out, thoroughly layer, cover your face and extremities, and be quick about it.

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