Polar Vortex Brings Deep Freeze to the Country

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By Sharon Shatananda

The polar vortex sounds about as much a meteorology term as it does a special power in a video game — however, the polar vortex is indeed a weather phenomenon, and it has gained attention for causing the deep freeze that affected almost the entire United States from January 5th through 7th. Temperatures reached unprecedented lows all over the country.

The polar vortex is a huge circulating mass of cold air that usually stays in the Arctic, but it’s possible for the vortex to be distorted when weather conditions change. This year, the jet stream acted unusually, carrying warm weather north and the Arctic cold south, according to the Weather Channel. Places in Russia experienced strange highs, while Niagara Falls partially froze.

Extremely cold temperatures caused trouble with school closings and flight cancellations, and made nearly all outdoor activity impossible. On Jan. 6th, temperatures below zero were recorded from Montana to Illinois and as far south as Missouri, according to the National Weather Service. In Minnesota, temperatures dropped as far as -31 degrees, cold enough to cause frostbite in just 10 minutes.

In Leesburg, the temperature dropped as far below freezing as 7 degrees. Combined with the wind chill, the predicted temperature on Tuesday the 7th prompted Loudoun County to close school for the third day in a row.

On that “snow” day, sophomore Sara Forbes said, “My friend’s dad’s truck got stuck in ice and slipped down a hill. He had to walk home.” Flight cancellations and tricky road situations made the freezing temperature even more difficult to deal with.

The cold weather receded on Wednesday and Thursday after some northern states experienced sub-zero temperatures for over 24 hours.