The upper midwest and eastern states are experiencing the coldest winter storm they’ve seen in years. Not only are these subzero temperatures astounding, but they are incredibly deadly.
At least eight fatalities have been reported as a direct result of the polar vortex. An elderly Illinois man was discovered several hours after he had fallen trying to get into his home. A University of Iowa student was also found dead just hours before dawn behind an academic building.
Chicago’s temperature plummeted to 21° below freezing Wednesday morning, only 6° away from The Windy City’s all-time record of -27° in 1985. As the storm continues, meteorologists predict this record could be broken this week. Norris Camp, Minnesota, almost made it there without allowing for wind, recording an actual air temperature of 48 degrees below zero.
The wind chill only intensifies the biting cold. Chicago was hit with severe gusts, reaching a wind chill of 51° below zero. Minneapolis suffered a wind chill of -49°. In these conditions, frostbite can set in within five minutes.
“One of the coldest arctic air mass intrusions in recent memory is surging south into the Upper Midwest before spreading across much of the eastern two-thirds of the country,” — National Weather Service
The deep freeze snapped rail lines, canceled hundreds of flights, and knocked out electricity. In Detroit, over two dozen water mains completely froze over.
It is imperative that everyone takes preventative measures before venturing out into the arctic storm. Colder the weather, the more dense the air is. With every 10° drop in temperature, tire pressure looses about a pound per square inch (p.s.i.). If possible before leaving your home, fill up your tires with an air pump. If you do not own an air pump, head to your closest gas station to refill your tires before making your commute. Keep in mind that lack of sunlight can produce black ice, so keep extra vigilant when traveling between dusk and dawn.
Battery life decreases by 20-35% when temperatures drop below freezing. If you own them, bring jumper cables and/or a portable battery in case of battery failure. Stock your vehicle with ice scrapers for your windows, a snow shovel or cat litter in case you lose traction on the icy roads. In the worst case scenario, mylar thermal blankets and a sleeping bag could protect you from hypothermia if you become stranded in the deadly winter storm.
Taking these proactive measures could save you or a loved one’s life.
For more information on how to stay safe on the roads this winter, read our Winter Driving Safety article.
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