CHICAGO — A weather pattern known as a polar vortex has touched down in the Midwestern United States, bringing with it record cold and snow. Temperatures have plummeted to as low as negative fifty degrees. It has been so frigid in Chicago that the Chicago River turned to ice. So far, twenty-two people have died from this period of severe weather.
A Wind From The North
The polar vortex is a result of swirling cold air in the Arctic region. Around this time of year, the swirling expanse of frigid air blows south towards the northern part of the United States. This year, the vortex split into two blobs of cold air. This split was a result of warmth in the stratosphere which plunges the vortex farther south than usual. This resulted in Chicago briefly being ten degrees colder than the Arctic.
The cold air moved into the Ohio Valley Region, the Midwest and brought heavy snows to the Great Lakes Region. Even the normally warm Southern states of Alabama and Mississippi experienced the effects. Schools and businesses were closed and flights were canceled. More seriously, this period of cold has proved dangerous to human life. Fatalities have included homeless individuals, a Michigan man “inadequately dressed for the weather,” an eighteen-year-old student found near his dorm and a Milwaukee man who’d been shoveling snow. Most recently the death toll includes a FedEx worker whose body was found outside of a delivery hub in East Moline, Illinois.
Coming In From the Cold
For those without homes, this weather has been particularly trying. Cities and shelters have risen to the challenge of helping these individuals. One anonymous donor in Chicago arranged to have seventy homeless individuals put in hotels. These individuals had been in a shelter, but one of the donated propane tanks exploded. City officials were going to take them to a different shelter when the anonymous individual stepped in to pay for their stay in a hotel.
Cities across the affected area have scrambled to get the homeless off the streets. Warming centers have been set up and volunteers have combed the streets, parks and other areas looking for anyone that might be stuck outside in the cold and bringing them to safety in warming centers.
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