Lake Michigan Freezes Over Amid Deadly Polar Vortex Sweeping US

Ice covers the Lake Michigan shoreline on January 30, 2019 in Chicago, Illinois
Scott Olson / Getty Images

The American Midwest has been caught up in a massive polar vortex, bringing temperatures to the region that have reached new record lows in some places. Sub-zero temperatures have resulted in numerous school districts closing their doors for most of the week, icy conditions on the road, and even some deaths.

But the polar vortex has also brought with it some incredibly beautiful scenes that only come with such extreme temperatures. One of those scenes can be found in Chicago, where the Lake Michigan shoreline has frozen over, according to the Washington Post.

The temperatures have dropped to 50 below the freezing point of water, which is colder than the temperature in Antarctica. The result is that the largest lake contained within a single country has frozen over.

Tom Skilling — a longtime Chicago forecaster and WGN-TV’s chief meteorologist — has said that the lake freezing over completely would be a record, as the most ice coverage it has seen at once is 90 to 95 percent, most recently in 2014.

“Wave action and wind, combined with the vast reservoir of heat contained in the lake, have so far prevented complete freezing,” Skilling wrote in 2017. “Ice formation on Lake Michigan usually begins in January and reaches its peak in late February or early March.”

But on Wednesday, when temperatures dropped to their lowest this week, Skilling spoke up about how “brutal” this polar vortex has been on the city.

“Lake Michigan took on the appearance of a boiling cauldron as air of minus-20 degrees and colder made contact with water sitting just above the freezing level. I’ve lived here 40 years and never until today have never seen a more spectacular display of ‘sea smoke.'”

Chicago recently experienced its coldest temperatures in over 150 years, and warnings have been issued for residents to avoid leaving their homes unless they absolutely have to. They’ve even been told not to “breathe deeply or talk outside.”

“If you live up in the Arctic Circle, you’d say this is pretty normal. When it’s actually brought down to this level, that’s when you know it’s something serious, ” weather service meteorologist Brian Hurley said of the extreme conditions.

The cold and raging winds have also left a stunningly haunting site at the St. Joseph Lighthouse on the other side of the bay opposite the city, with “immobilized tendrils of ice curled around the cast iron structure” on the pier’s railing. Despite the beautiful aesthetics of the ice, if one chooses to brave the elements to get a look for themselves, it is advised that they are well-prepared and properly dressed for the outing.