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A ‘Polar Vortex’ Is Freezing Over Much of America

Detroit Deals With Heavy Snow And Bitter Cold
Joshua Lott/Getty Images

If you live in the Midwest, you already know this: it’s very, very, extremely, downright absurdly cold out there. And things are only going to get worse as what weather experts call a “polar vortex” begins covering more and more of the country.

A polar vortex is a “deep low-pressure system that stretches to the upper levels of the atmosphere and usually circulates around the polar region.” It’s sort of like an arctic hurricane, one that would normally only hit parts of northeastern Canada. However, this particular vortex has reached much farther south than usual, and it may affect as many as 140 million Americans.

The National Weather Service issued the following dire forecast:

The coldest weather in years will be making its presence known from the Upper Midwest to the Mid-Atlantic region for the beginning of the work week. The polar vortex, a mid-upper level cyclonic feature normally present over northern Canada, will be displaced unusually far to the south over the northern Great Lakes and southern Ontario. Owing to the deep layer of the cold air mass, this will provide for an incredibly strong surge of bitterly cold Arctic Air along with gusty winds. The Upper Midwest will be affected first by Saturday night, and the brutal conditions will continue pushing southeastward to the Ohio Valley and Mid-South by Monday, and to the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic by Tuesday. Particularly noteworthy will be the extreme wind chills and nearly unheard-of daytime highs that are forecast.

The polar vortex may lead to record-low temperatures in states from Montana all the way to Alabama, and then, as the blast of frigid air heads east, it could do the same to areas along the East Coast in the next day or so. Temperatures in New York City, for example, were in the mid-50s on Monday but look likely to dip into the low single digits by Tuesday morning, with a wind chill of up to minus-15 degrees. And that’s nothing compared to the minus-50 and worse conditions in parts of North Dakota.

Sunday saw the cancellation of more than 1,000 flights at airports across the Midwest, with 400 more in Chicago alone on Monday. Road conditions look to be terrible for the next few days too, and there was even a train going from Detroit to Chicago that froze, stranding passengers for nine hours on Sunday night.

Probably the best advice right now—other than immediately moving to Florida—is to put on your warmest clothes and sit by the fire until this thing passes. You can check out one of the many new movies now available Netflix, for example. We recommend ‘Some Like It Hot.’

[NWS, A.P., N.Y. Times, NBC]

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