An estimated 180 million people from the Midwest to the Northeast will be experiencing record-setting, bitterly cold temperatures this week due to a “polar vortex,” a counterclockwise-rotating pool of cold, dense air.
Forecasters are expecting eye-popping temperatures across the nation: -25ᵒ in Fargo, ND, -31ᵒ in International Falls, MN, and -15ᵒ in both Chicago, IL and Indianapolis, IN. Even worse, wind chills may reach 50, 60 or even 70 degrees below zero. These are extremely dangerous conditions as exposed skin can get frostbitten in minutes and hypothermia can quickly set in. Frostbite can occur after only 5 - 10 minutes outside in the frigid temperatures if people don’t cover up.
“People need to protect themselves against the intense cold,” said Brian Mahoney, medical director of emergency services at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis. “They have to wear a hat; they have to have face protection.”
Mahoney added that mittens are better than gloves; layers of dry clothing are best; and anyone who gets wet needs to get inside immediately.
“A person not properly dressed could die easily in those conditions,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Scott Truett in St. Louis, describing the wind chill expected in Missiouri on January 6th.
Minnesota cancelled schools for Monday for the entire state for the first time in 17 years. School systems all over the country are assessing whether or not to have late openings or to close schools during this polar crisis. In most cases, an opening two hours after that which is regularly slated will not create any real advantage.
Stay as warm as you can – and don’t go out unless you absolutely have to.