Life in the Polar Vortex

Polar Vortex

Even in Canada, life in the polar vortex can be a bit much.  I am a born and bred Canadian and, outside of a four-year stint where my family and I lived in Germany, have spent my entire life living in one area or another in this great country. 

Joke as many other nations may about Canada and Canadians – believe me, I’ve heard many of them – the polar vortex is an unfamiliar phenomena to many of us.  We don’t usually live in igloos and many of the deep, sub-zero temperatures we experience in the country are usually what those in the western provinces, such as Manitoba, Alberta and Saskatchewan, experience.

I live in Ontario.  The average temperature in the city I live in hovers somewhere around -8 C, which translates to around 17.4 F.  That’s not so bad.  However, many of us in Ontario would be happy to see those temperatures this winter for longer than a day before the mercury plunged again.  Toronto has been seeing temperatures around -29 C (-20.2 F), while Quebec has gone even colder, with the mercury dipping to a chilly -38 C (-36.4 F) at one point.

My kids have effectively lived an indoor life over the last month since the polar vortex descended.  Outside of their quick walks to school and lightning fast hops from the car to whatever building we are heading to, we have stayed indoors, and are suffering from a little bit of cabin fever.  Let’s face it, when you are 9 and almost 5, winter should be about sledding, skating and generally messing around in the snow.  It’s simply been too cold; when the family dog looks up at you with wide, soulful eyes as if to say, “No way am I going out there,” it’s gotten too cold.

For those who may be lucky enough this year to be living outside the polar vortex, life inside the polar vortex is basically filled with swirling masses of air, and usually these swirling air masses are found around the poles.  The air masses are around constantly, but because there have been changes in the traditional weather pattern around this time of year, Central and Eastern North America have seen cold weather like they have never seen previously.

By contrast, I recently spoke to my sister, who lives near Edmonton, Alberta.  Edmonton is well outside the scope of the polar vortex, and she, along with other Edmontonians, I’m sure, were only too happy to see the rest of the country freezing their buttons off.  Here in Ontario, the traditional amount of skiers that have hit local slopes have dipped slightly simply due to the extreme cold and wind chills that go along with it.  That’s left many people staring out the window as the snow drifts inch ever closer to window sills, wondering if winter is ever going to come close to ending.

The sad thing is, it’s only the end of January.  The forecast has the temperatures sitting in the minus double digits for most of the next week at minimum.  People are hitting the Internet in droves and searching for escape from the incredible cold we have been experiencing.  According to Good Morning America, there were twice as many Google searches for warm weather vacations in the first week of January 2014 than in the entire month of January 2013.

Vacation destinations are also seeing overwhelming searches.  Searches for trips to Los Cabos, Mexico are up by 300 per cent on Travelzoo, while the Bahamas is up by 190 per cent.  People are looking to escape these frigid arctic temperatures, one way or another, and the relatively mild winter we experienced in 2013 has been forgotten.  Needless to say, everyone’s complaining about the cold.

On the plus side, it has certainly brought out the sense of compassion and of humor in many.  Ottawa, Canada’s capital, saw one well wisher clothe the statues at the Valiants’ Memorial on Parliament Hill with scarves with a note inviting those stuck in the wintry weather to grab a scarf if needed.

On a local level, as car batteries have frozen up, friends and strangers alike have banded together to bring each other through the challenges that this winter in particular has been presenting all of us.  My husband actually was helping my best friend overcome a dead battery in -20 C weather the other day.  It was lucky, as her car died not far from our place, but my point is we help each other through challenging times, and that’s something we don’t see that often in the 21st century world.

So, frozen as we all are living life inside the polar vortex, it’s important to realize that there are definitely some bonuses.  For my part, it’s given my girls and I a chance to slow down a little.  Cuddle time may be happening more as an effort to keep warm, but knowing how quickly childhood races by, I’ll take what I can get.  Life inside the polar vortex has had its particular challenges, but I think it’s given all of an opportunity to see a warmer side of society.

By Christina St-Jean

Sources:

CTV News

Tourism Barrie

Accuweather

Good Morning America

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