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Midwest Approaching Absolute Zero

Well not quite, but the polar vortex is on its way.

A few years ago when I was in college, Chicagoland was hit with a polar vortex that dropped the temps and wind chill down to -30.  Midwesterners vowed vengeance upon any meteorologist who uttered the words “polar vortex” again.

And here we are. Except this time it’s worse.

The Weather Channel summarized what is to come.

At a Glance

  • Dangerously cold conditions are forecast in the Midwest this week.
  • Parts of the Midwest will see their coldest weather in at least two decades.
  • Wind chills values will fall into the 40s, 50s, even 60s below zero in some places.
  • The Northeast will also see bitterly cold temperatures late this week.

With a flurry of charts and maps, they point out that this weather is rare.  To get a glimpse of how bad this is, they share recorded wind chills from Canada as this system makes its way toward the Midwest. They say, “Incredibly, wind chills in the minus 60s and 70s, even a minus-82-degree wind chill, were observed Monday in northern Manitoba and southern Nunavut, Canada, according to the National Weather Service.”

“The National Weather Service has issued various wind chill warnings, watches and advisories across the Midwest, interior Northeast and even the southern Appalachians. These alerts are issued when wind chills are forecast to be dangerously cold.”

If the cold isn’t bad enough, some areas have seen and will be seeing more snow. Yesterday, the entire State of Michigan was inundated with snow.  Michigan Governor, Gretchen Whitmer, is set to declare a state of emergency in the state due to the cold.

News organizations in the state are trying to keep people informed of the dangers associated with the cold and the likelihood of having to be out in it because of the snow.  They offer the following tips for staying safe in this cold.

Safety tips to stay safe during cold weather:

  • Limit your time outside. If you need to go outside, wear layers of warm clothing. Watch for signs of frostbite and hypothermia.
  • Signs of frostbite include: loss of feeling and color around the face, fingers and toes, numbness, white or grayish-yellow skin, firm or waxy skin.
  • Signs of hypothermia include: shivering, exhaustion, confusion, fumbling hands, memory loss, slurred speech or drowsiness.
  • Avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Only use generators and grills outdoors and away from windows. Never heat your home with a gas stovetop or oven.
  • Reduce the risk of a heart attack. Avoid overexertion when shoveling snow.
  • Check on neighbors. Older adults and young children are more at risk in extreme cold.
  • Pets are also at risk for cold weather injuries and should be kept indoors.
  • If travel is necessary, keep a full tank of gas and an emergency preparedness kit in your vehicle. Put warm clothing, such as gloves, blankets and hats, and a cell phone charger in your kit.

To prevent frozen pipes:

  • Keep garage doors closed if there are water supply lines in the garage.
  • Open kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warmer air to circulate around the plumbing. Be sure to move any harmful cleaners and household chemicals up out of the reach of children.
  • When the weather is very cold outside, let the cold-water drip from the faucet served by exposed pipes. Running water through the pipe – even at a trickle – helps prevent pipes from freezing.
  • Keep the thermostat set to the same temperature both during the day and at night. By temporarily suspending the use of lower nighttime temperatures, you may incur a higher heating bill, but you can prevent a costlier repair job if pipes freeze and burst.
  • If you will be going away during cold weather, leave the heat on in your home, set to a temperature no lower than 55 F.

To thaw frozen pipes:

  • If you turn on a faucet and only a trickle comes out, suspect a frozen pipe. Likely places for frozen pipes include against exterior walls or where your water service enters your home through the foundation.
  • Keep the faucet open. As you treat the frozen pipe and the frozen area begins to melt, water will begin to flow through the frozen area. Running water through the pipe will help melt ice in the pipe.
  • Apply heat to the section of pipe using an electric heating pad wrapped around the pipe, an electric hair dryer, a portable space heater (kept away from flammable materials), or by wrapping pipes with towels soaked in hot water. Do not use a blowtorch, kerosene or propane heater, charcoal stove, or other open flame device.
  • Apply heat until full water pressure is restored. If you are unable to locate the frozen area, if the frozen area is not accessible, or if you cannot thaw the pipe, call a licensed plumber.
  • Residents who need assistance or guidance during the extreme cold are encouraged to call 211.

And if you need a laugh during this time of subzero Midwestern hell, look no further than the President himself.

The Don Jon has taken a cheap shot at global warming as only the president can. Excuse me, climate change.  Anomalies like this polar vortex used to be a problem for global warming, but definitions change and now they are just concerned about extreme weather events regardless of what they are and regardless of whether these events have lasting effects.  For example, a polar vortex that freezes much of the Great Lakes or produces a ton of snow may have lasting consequences for the spring and summer because they affect sunlight reflection and evaporation.

Juvenile political arguments aside, Trump is right. It’s going to be cold. Be careful.


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