Record low temperatures in North America

A number of people have died in North America following extremely low winter temperatures. Even the South Pole in Antarctica was warmer. This cold weather has also caused schools to close in the US Midwest, and halted postal deliveries. Police have also warned of the risk of accidents on icy highways. The main states affected are Michigan, Iowa, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota.

It was certainly not a good time to be traveling, and most people stayed off the streets. Most banks and stores remained closed. The cold air temperature was around minus 28 Celsius. However the wind-chill temperature in parts of the North Plains and Great Lakes dropped as low as minus 41 Celsius.

Twenty-one passengers on a bus had to be rescued when the diesel in the engine turned to gel because of the cold. More than a thousand flights, two-thirds of those scheduled on Wednesday 30th January, into or out of Chicago O’Hare and Midway International airports were cancelled. Amtrak cancelled all trains in and out of Chicago.

At least eight deaths related to extreme cold weather have been reported since Saturday January 26thaccording to officials and media reports. In separate incidents two 70 year old men died on the streets. A University of Iowa pre-med student was found dead outside a building on the campus. In Chicago 5 city buses were used as mobile warming centres for homeless people. The city police were also handing out jackets, hats, and blankets.

The bitter cold was caused by a change of the air that circulates around the North Pole. This is known as the polar vortex and is moving air high in the stratosphere normally over the North Pole. This air current has been disrupted and has pushed further south than normal.

Activity for you:
Describe extreme heat or cold you have experienced. How did you stay comfortable? How did you stay safe and well?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking.

Pete Miller

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