A fierce polar vortex making its way through the Midwest is bringing record-breaking low temperatures and life-threatening wind chills. The dangerous conditions have forced schools and businesses to close and mail services will be postponed. This has caused a disaster in local airports, leading to approximately 2,457 flight delays and over a thousand more cancellations, according to NBC News.
More than 7,000 people in the state of Minnesota are without power tonight due to the winter storm. For many, power shut off around 9:00 p.m. and is not expected to return until 3:00 a.m. As a result, residents have been encouraged to leave their homes for their own safety and seek shelter with family who still have heat.
Midwesterners are used to unpredictable weather patterns and sudden changes in temperature. However, this extreme cold front is unlike anything the region has seen in years, with temperatures nearly 40 degrees below average. The polar vortex is not merely an inconvenience but poses serious dangerous to those not equipped for these conditions. Midwestern churches and halfway houses are rallying together to provide a warm place of shelter for those with nowhere to call home. It is crucial to get as many people off the streets as possible. In the many areas dealing with nearly -30 degree wind chills, it takes no more than 10 minutes to develop frost bite. Medical professionals urge the public to call their doctor if they notice blistering or skin discoloration following exposure to the elements.
The polar vortex has already claimed the lives of six people across the states of Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. Physicians fear this is only the beginning as the worst part of the winter storm is yet to come. Dr. Robert Glatter from New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital is warning people to take the risk of hypothermia seriously.
“Hypothermia is a medical emergency when your body loses heat faster than it can produce it. As your body temperature drops, your heart, brain, and internal organs cannot function. Without aggressive resuscitation and rapid rewarming, you will ultimately not survive. Without rapid rewarming, your heart rate and breathing slows even further, leading to poor circulation to the brain, heart and extremities, which is fatal.”
The speed at which hypothermia can take over the body is dependent on not only the temperatures outside but the extent of the exposure as well. Children and the elderly are especially vulnerable and should limit time outdoors as much as possible.