Residents in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic and Midwest experienced a blast of cold weather that reached to near-record low temperatures in the last week of January that went into the first day of February.
Parts of the US were affected by a weather phenomenon known as a polar vortex. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, or NOAA, “A polar vortex is a low pressure area—a wide expanse of swirling cold air—that is parked in polar regions. During winter, the polar vortex at the North Pole expands, sending cold air southward.”
According to the BBC, cold air brought temperatures to near-record lows in places like Chicago, where the temperatures reached -55F. Parts of North Dakota reached -60F.
In places like Chicago, city officials kept train routes running by igniting fires on the train tracks to keep them warm and melt snow, the BBC said.
At least 16 fatalities occurred that were related to the cold snap that occurred during the week. Most victims, who were residents in the midwest, froze due to the extremely cold temperatures, CNN said.
Despite the cold hitting the midwest, some residents found ways to enjoy the day. Marquette, Mich., resident Daniel Schetter went surfing in the cold along Lake Superior. Schetter said to the Detroit Free Press, “I surf all year. There is no end of the season.”
While the DC region hadn’t reached temperatures so low, temperatures stil dipped to 2F, which, combined with snow and winter weather, prompted early releases, delays and school closures. Montgomery County and the school had a rough start to the new semester when the county made the decision to close schools on Wednesday. In addition, students were released early on Tuesday and Friday, and school opening was delayed on Thursday.
English teacher Anne Evans noted that the first week of the new semester started out rough for teachers. “It was very disruptive for the start of the new semester. Having those hurried classes, the 10 minute classes on Friday, just made it a bit more challenging,” Evans said. “I never really got to know the kids last week.”
Freshman Anthony Terselic wasn’t affected too much by last week’s cold. “I mostly just stayed at home and did homework and studied,” Terselic said. “The cold doesn’t really matter that much to me.”
Freshman Shrutha Venkatesan was not happy with what snow days bring when it comes to missed work. “I felt very stressed over the snow days because I feel that teachers place an unrealistic expectation on us to complete work during the snow days,” Venkatesan said.
Student weekend plans weren’t largely affected by the winter weather last week. “It was kind of annoying but really didn’t make that much of a difference,” Terselic said.
Teachers also enjoyed the days off. Evans didn’t have any weekend plans that were affected by the cold weather and found ways to enjoy it indoors. “When it’s that cold it’s fun in a weird way because you can hang out with your dogs and make some chili,” Evans said.