The polar vortex is known as the bubble of Arctic air that normally remains confined to the area surrounding the North Pole. However, it is being reported that extreme cold temperatures currently hitting Canada and the Northern United States and Midwest are the polar vortex itself, temporarily migrating into the Great Lakes region.
Normally this whirlpool of air from the Arctic, dropping well below zero degrees Fahrenheit, is confined to the North Pole. However, the explanation provided for the vortex apparently breaking free and spreading all the way south from the Dakotas to West Virginia, is that warming in the Arctic may have broken the zone of containment.
Nearly 90 million Americans are expected to endure low temperatures at or below zero degrees Fahrenheit (-17.7 Celsius), according to the National Weather Service. It was reported that the worst stream of cold air is stretching from Ohio to Minnesota, but the metropolitan areas of Chicago, Illinois, and Detroit, Michigan are among the worst to be affected.
On Wednesday, a low temperature of -23 degrees Fahrenheit (-30.5 Celsius) was recorded in Chicago, constituting a tie for the fifth coldest temperature since records began to be kept by the weather service in 1872.
Thursday will most likely see a match for the coldest temperature ever to be recorded in Chicago, at -27 Fahrenheit (-32.7 Celsius).
The New York Post reported:
Meanwhile, more than 1,600 flights were canceled out of Chicago’s airports Wednesday, including 1,300-plus just at O’Hare — where a morning temp minus 23 degrees set the record for the coldest since Jan. 30, 1966. It was also the coldest Jan. 30 since 1966 in Mansfield, Ohio, and South Bend and Fort Wayne Ind. In Indiana, where it was at least minus 11 degrees, 4,000 people lost power.
The Chicago River froze, and it happened to emanate plumes of water they nicknamed “sea smoke.” It was also reported that unusual booming sounds were heard across the city of Chicago, which are considered to be “frost quakes,” according to the New York Post.
A frost quake is said to occur when a sudden, extreme drop in temperature causes water in the ground to freeze, expand, and influence a build-up of pressure that can create a large boom noise.
I am predicting a baby boom in this upcoming November 2019 after this polar vortex, JUST saying
— the OG (@GrahammCrackaa) January 31, 2019
Sadly, officials reported that at least 9 people have passed away in the cold, including a 70-year-old man in Detroit who was found frozen, and an Ecorse, Michigan based former City Council member. On Tuesday, a couple more people were found frozen, including an 82 year old man outside his home in Pekin, Illinois, where the high temperature of the day was -11 Fahrenheit. Near Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, a 55 year old man was found frozen after he had been shoveling snow.
The homeless population of large metropolitan areas from Chicago, to Detroit, to Cleveland, unfortunately must have suffered through unimaginable conditions that may have taken the lives of all those who didn’t find shelter. It isn’t widely reported as of yet who ran to the aid of these people or how they managed to find shelter and stay warm, but hopefully most of them managed to stay safe.
Cameron Fire Chief Mitch Hansen after battling a house fire in Cameron WI during the polar vortex (Jan 30, 2019).
The home was a complete loss. A fundraiser has been set up for the family: https://t.co/zUk24iNO5t
Photocredit: Assistant Fire Chief Bimbo Gifford, Cameron, WI pic.twitter.com/aIk0OO0niq
— Brendan J. Gifford (@brendan_gifford) January 31, 2019
In the past five years, this constitutes at least the third polar vortex intrusion Chicago has had to endure. In January 2014 and February 2015 the next year, the same thing reportedly happened, and debate exists among researchers, some of which claim a warming trend in the Pacific Ocean could be warping the polar jet stream.