Old Man Winter is bringing an Arctic blast of weather including a polar vortex to much of the United States this weekend. About half of the country’s population, 140 million people, are expected to be affected by temperatures plunging to zero or below. Ohio is preparing for the coldest weather to hit the state in twenty years.
A polar vortex, according to meteorologist Phillip Schumacher of the National Weather Service, is “the mother lode of cold air.” A polar vortex is a pool of cold, dense air that rotates in a counterclockwise direction. He added that they usually remain in Canada, but the polar vortex on its way is “going to come all the way into the eastern United States.”
This new wave of freezing weather is coming on the heels of a ferocious nor’easter that swept through 20 states, leaving them blanketed with snow and ice. That was just a hint of the cold weather to come this weekend and next week.
According to CNN, on Sunday in North Dakota temperatures are expected to get as low as 30 degrees below zero. With the wind chill added in, the temperature will feel like minus 50, according to the National Weather Service.
The Arctic blast and polar vortex might send subzero temperatures as far south as Alabama, and bring single-digit temperatures to many other Deep South states.
How deadly was the past week’s winter weather?
According to CNN, the last week’s devastating nor’easter and cold temperatures, an ominous harbinger of the Arctic blast that’s set to affect much of the United States, resulted in the deaths of at least 13 people, with 11 of them dying due to hazardous road conditions and driving accidents.
Hypothermia claimed the life of a man in Wisconsin, and the bitter cold also claimed the life of a 71-year-old woman in Byron, New York, with Alzheimers disease. Thursday night, she left her home, and she was later discovered dead just 100 yards away, in a snowy wooded area.
As a preemptive measure for the polar vortex of freezing temperatures set to arrive, Minnesota’s Governor Mark Dayton has already announced that schools statewide will be closed this Monday.
The polar vortex is a recipe for hypothermia and frostbite
Local media in the states that will be affected by the polar vortex, as well as national media, are warning about the dangers of being outside in the frigid temperatures and harsh winds for an extended period of time.
For instance, the weather service of Twin Cities, Minnesota, is reminding residents that in conditions when there’s “wind chills colder than 50 below,” it only takes around five minutes to freeze exposed flesh.
By Monday night at the latest, residents of the Midwest will be threatened by the risk of getting hypothermia and frostbite.
In response to this, Indian Governor Mike Pence is asking Hoosiers to get emergency preparedness kits ready for the arrival of the latest Arctic blast of winter. The kits should include, according to Pence, items such as necessary prescriptions and non-perishable bottled water and food. Pence also urged residents to avoid any “unnecessary travel.”
In Chicago on Sunday night, the temperatures will be as low as 16-20 degrees below zero. The wind chill blowing off of Lake Michigan will make it feel more like the temperature will be even lower, 35-45 below zero.
The polar vortex will affect approximately half of the continental U.S., and there’s expected to be snow storms from the Plains to New England. Even Nashville could experience zero-degree temperatures at the start of the coming week.
Many flights have already been canceled in the states affected by the last winter storm, and thousands of people are stranded at airports. According to FlightAware.com, on Friday alone, around 3,200 flights were canceled.
If you reside in any of the states that are set to be affected by the arrival of the polar vortex and fresh winter snow storms, if you must go outside at all, make sure that you’re bundled up and wearing a coat and gloves. Also, keep extra blankets in your car in case you get stranded somewhere due to the inclement conditions.
Learn where local emergency shelters are in case your house experiences a power loss and you need to get to where there’s heat to stay warm. Examples of emergency shelters often include senior centers, schools, and churches.
The best way to deal with the arrival of the brutally cold temperatures and snow storms expected to come with the polar vortex is to be prepared as much as possible, and also make sure that your space heaters are functioning correctly, if you own any. Avoid the worst of the polar vortex and winter storms by staying inside whenever you can.
Written by: Douglas Cobb