Greetings from the Polar Vortex! No, that's not the name of your favorite new dubstep band. It's the terrifying swirl of arctic winter currently occupying the Midwest and poised to consume the rest of you poor bastards.
Cold as January usually is, this isn't normal: record-breaking low temperatures started yesterday and are still going strong. It's all due to that vortex, which is basically a frigid hurricane that's supposed to swirl over the North Pole. Although the phenomenon usually sticks to places where nobody would ever want to build a city, sometimes one splits apart and decides to go on an adventure. Once that cold air is free, it can get pretty far south and cause big problems.
Here in sunny Madison, Wisconsin, that means current temperatures of -17° F with wind chills of -37° F. (But later it should get up to a balmy -11° F!) It's the coldest it's been since the last Arctic blast in 1996, and last night wind chills were down to -50° F. There is a "wind chill warning" in effect here and in much of the Midwest due to the fact that those temperatures can freeze your face off in under 10 minutes. By Saturday, grocery stores were already planning on closing early today. Schools are closed across the state because it's too cold for Wisconsin. Even cheese curd vendors are closed.
Because I care about you, dear reader, I put on two layers of pants and dragged my boyfriend outside into the tundra. Within three minutes I couldn't feel my nose. Within seven, his phone had frozen into a useless brick. Eventually I could even feel the insides of my sinus cavity beginning to freeze. We couldn't make it fifteen minutes before ducking into the closest shop in the hopes of being able to feel something, anything, ever again. (Shoutout to Espresso Royale for being open and warm.)
All told, we walked about half a mile in the windy, subzero weather. It was half a mile too far. Heed my warning: polar vortices are best utilized as an excuse to bundle up in all your blankets, drinking warm things and watching bad movies. Whatever you do, don't go outside when the vortex strikes.
[Deceptively sunny images taken today in Madison, Wis.]