This past week, I have done a few things I’m out of practice doing and haven’t done for years since leaving the northeast USA. I’ve checked my house to be sure it is winterized. I’ve gone out to start our vehicles and even took one of them to the dealership to check on the antifreeze. I covered my outside faucets, left my cabinet doors open to protect the pipes. I have dressed in layers, worn a knit cap and hunted up some warm gloves and a scarf. And I have worried about frozen pipes.
Why, all of a sudden in the suburbs of Atlanta, in early January have I suddenly taken such an interest in cold weather? They tell me it is because of the polar vortex.
They also tell me it is colder here than it has been for many, many years. Yes, 6, 7, 8 degrees and painful! Blame is placed on the polar vortex: Strong upper-level winds circulating around the North Pole in a counter-clockwise direction. The winds keep bitter cold air locked in Arctic regions, but this time the vortex dipped South, spilling cold air where it isn’t normally found. The jet stream dipped south, spilling cold air on this area, and even Florida was cold.
The resulting cold, dangerous polar air has kept people indoors, closed schools, disrupted many normal activities including travel and has caused frostbite. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the polar vortex and as far as I am concerned, the quicker it goes home, the happier I will be.
We expect low temperatures in Minnesota to go to 20 degrees below zero, but we don’t expect record cold in Atlanta. Cold records were also broken in West Virginia, the Washington-Baltimore area and elsewhere. New York City broke a 118-year record with four-degree temperatures. It was minus 16 degrees in Chicago and 40 degrees below in Texas and Oklahoma.
Millions of people around the nation have experienced the arctic blast with its below-zero bone-chilling results. Without the proper clothing, a person could die in such extreme cold. Former Yankee or not, I did not like feeling the arrival of the coldest temperature in 20 years. No one I knew enjoyed the life-threatening conditions brought to Georgia on the wings of the arctic vortex.
The 20 degrees below in Kentucky was extreme enough to make a prison escapee turn himself in to escape the arctic air. He didn’t want hypothermia and frostbite.
After all the suffering and inconvenience, temperatures moderated somewhat and most people returned to their daily activities. I had a lunch engagement with an old friend just today when he called to cancel due to broken pipes. In the thaw, he’d developed water problems and had difficulty getting a busy plumber.
Wherever people were meeting, their first talk was about the weather. The consensus is that the vortex was the work of the devil because a Michigan town by the same name froze over at 3 degrees. You know it was cold when a Chicago zoo polar bear had to be taken inside. He lacked enough fat to keep warm.
Buck up. Soon the good times will roll and we can return to our normal activities. While we wait, we will look over our shoulders and remain alert for the return of another polar blast!
Jack Simpson is a former educator, a veteran, an author and a law enforcement officer. His column appears each Friday.