Saturday, 23 February, 2019

Polar vortex: What is it and how does it happen?

United States polar vortex 2019: US faces historic low temperatures | Daily Star Polar vortex: Parts of US set for record-breaking cold
Cary Marshall | 31 January, 2019, 15:41

'You're talking about frostbite and hypothermia issues very quickly, like in a matter of minutes, maybe seconds, ' said Brian Hurley, a meteorologist with the Weather Prediction Center.

"That wind chill out there is not even a joke", he said.

Chicago's record for coldest temperature was shattered on Wednesday as the polar vortex struck the biggest city in the U.S. Midwest, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

In Fargo, North Dakota, where the temperature dropped to minus 24F (minus 31C), Dan Hallock, an advertising executive, marveled that people were still working outside as he bought coffee.

The morning temperature in the Windy City was -22 degrees Fahrenheit (-30 Celsius), which felt like -50 degrees (-46 Celsius) with wind chill. The current record of minus 26 degrees was set in 1996. Her chickens, ducks and guinea hens were enjoying the 70-degree (21C) climate inside their greenhouse-like hoop house, she said.

Heavy snow was forecast in the northern stretches of ME and snow squalls predicted for other parts of the east coast. Snow was expected through Wednesday from the Great Lakes region into New England.

Even Alabama and MS could see snow, the service added.

Parts of north and central Georgia may see about 2 inches (5 cm) or more of snow in the coming days, along with freezing rain and ice-slicked highways.

States of emergency have been declared from Wisconsin and MI, down to Alabama and Mississippi.

USA media has attributed at least five deaths since the weekend to the freezing conditions and a major snowstorm that preceded the blast of Arctic air now gripping the region.

More news: Mavericks Lose To Raptors 123-120

The agency predicted temperatures to remain 25 to 45 degrees below average through Thursday, with wind chill values as low as -25 to -55 degrees Fahrenheit (-32 to -48 Celsius).

It wasn't stopping one of America's most formidable endurance tests, however - the three-day Arrowhead 135 was going on as scheduled in northeastern Minnesota. "And because it's so cold, there won't be much of a warm-up Wednesday".

The Chicago Zoological Society said it would shut Brookfield Zoo for only the fourth time in its 85-year history on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Homeless shelters were also preparing for the onslaught of cold.

"People don't want to be out there right now", said Brennan Ellis, 53, who was staying at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries.

He said ambulance crews were handling all outside response incidents as being potentially life-threatening.

"These [conditions] are actually a public health risk and you need to treat it appropriately", Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said. It is called "sudden stratospheric warming".

The cause of the sub-zero chill was a swirl of arctic air that broke away from the polar vortex that usually encircles the North Pole.

"Where the polar vortex goes, so goes the cold air", Mr Cohen said. Many had been destined for Atlanta, where the National Football League's Super Bowl will take place on Sunday. It maintains its liquid state in subzero temperatures, like those now hitting parts of the USA, so when a gas tank is full, those fuel lines are better equipped to handle to the cold.

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