Upper Midwest and Southern residents are preparing for a long cold spell in reaction to the glacial winter blast that has moved in, making the region resemble the set of Disney’s Frozen. Temperatures plummeted as much as 50 degrees overnight in some areas, causing many last-minute changes of plans. Schools, Veterans Day celebrations, businesses and ranchers had to adjust their standard operating procedures to accommodate public safety under such frigid conditions. Many stayed in and some who ventured out found it a hazardous experience or worse.
Northern Michigan University cancelled classes causing journalism student Mikenzie Frost to head out to purchase a shovel instead. Several school districts in Wisconsin and Minnesota followed suit when they awoke to find their world covered in 13 to 15 inches of fresh, powdery snow with more winter blasts on the way. All across the Upper Midwest and South schools reacted likewise by closing their doors. The shutdowns seem to be the course of wisdom as an eastern Wisconsin school bus driver and aide are in the hospital after a crash caused by glacial road conditions, according to U.S. News and World Report. In addition, in Minnesota the slippery road conditions caused drivers to skid into oncoming traffic, killing two people. State troopers have responded to 475 crashes and over 700 spinout incidents as of Monday evening.
Further south, Denver’s temperatures dropped into the teens, around 20 to 30 degrees below average regional temperatures for this time of year, causing an outdoor Veteran’s Day ceremony to move to an indoor venue. Cattle ranchers in the Dakotas are better prepared for the cold weather this year, hoping to avoid the catastrophe that the sudden early freeze caused in October 2013, resulting in the deaths of over 40,000 cattle in the Upper Midwest who had not had time to grow their winter coats. Bob Fortune, president of the South Dakota Stockgrowers Association, attests to the cattle’s winter readiness this year, saying they have had sufficient cool weather to allow them to grow thick, hairy coats like bears to withstand the Upper Midwest glacial winter cold.
Some flights in the Upper Midwest were cancelled due to inclement weather with more delays and cancellations expected as the arctic blasts continue in the region. Minneapolis snow tripled the Monday morning commute times and then turned to hail and sleet setting the city’s snow crews in motion to clear the sidewalks and streets by shovel, plow and brush. A pipeline problem in Glenrock, WY combined with near zero temperatures to knock out service to over 1,000 buildings.
Ace Hardware clerk, Terri Sommerfeld of Webster, Wisconsin told U.S. News and World Report that although business is light, their most popular items right now are shovels and snowblowers. In fact, they have sold as many snowblowers in two days as they normally sell all winter. Action Mechanical, Inc. of Rapid City, S.D., is finding that subzero weather is good for the heating and ventilation business, drumming up so much business with the arctic blast that they are hard-pressed to keep up with the orders. Although Minnesota multimillionaire lottery winner Joe Meath certainly has enough money to leave the state for warmer locales during the glacial winter temperatures, he chose instead to get busy taking care of his customers in his snowplow business.
From Montana to Texas, temperatures did a nosedive overnight, taking people in the Upper Midwest from sandals and short sleeves to sweatshirts, turtlenecks, scarves and gloves without warning. The Texas Panhandle saw temperatures plummet from a summery 70 degrees to the glacial teens. Oklahoma City dropped from 80 degrees on Monday to 30 degrees on Tuesday. Wind chill in the Dakotas put “feels like” temperatures at 20 below. The National Weather Service (NWS) expects the Upper Midwest snow to subside by Wednesday although the glacial winter blast is expected to remain through next week and spread from Washington to Maine and as far south as Georgia and Texas, according to Weather Channel meteorologist Kevin Roth.
At least a foot of snow blanketed Michigan’s Upper Peninsula on Tuesday with predictions of the glacial winter storm dropping 12 to 24 inches of additional snow on the Midwest and South before this is over. The Christian Science Monitor reports that some forecasters are expecting the freezing temperatures to remain below freezing for almost two weeks. They pin the blame for the storms on the weather systems’ reaction to Super Typhoon Nuri, one of the strongest recorded non-tropical storms with significant effects on global weather patterns. Nonetheless, until the frigid blasts pass, Upper Midwest residents would do well to stock up on hot chocolate and spiced cider to keep them warm as they wait out the winter storms.
by Tamara Christine Van Hooser
Featured and Top Photo Courtesy of Angela White, taken Nov. 11, 2014 in Colorado Springs, CO
Inside Photo Courtesy of Lotzman Katzman – Flickr License