Polar Vortex Brings Students Indoors

Josh Nehs –

Wisconsin and the rest of the Midwest were met with cold temperatures that cancelled schools and businesses during the last week of January.

The temperatures broke records, reaching a range between negative 40 and negative 65 degrees Fahrenheit with the wind chill. The intensity of the cold would cause frostbite within minutes.

Polar vortexes are normally contained within the poles due to temperature differences between the poles and the equator. Because of the temperature difference, they push each other, creating what is called a polar vortex.

The polar vortex sits above the Earth’s surface, whipping cold air and blocking direct sunlight. The North Pole vortex split in two on Jan 2, bringing polar temperatures to the Midwest.

Although polar vortexes splitting is nothing new, scientists are looking at the possibility of the frequency of the split rising.

A current theory is that climate change is contributing to extreme colds being pushed further South. This theory is in its early stages, and there is much debate within the scientific community on whether the two instances are related.

In response to the extreme weather conditions, University of Wisconsin-Stout, among many other universities, cancelled classes to protect students and staff. Classes were cancelled from 3:30 p.m., Jan 29 through the Jan 31.

In Menomonie, temperatures reached negative 29 degrees Fahrenheit with ten and a half mile per hour winds. Within minutes of being outside, these conditions could have caused possible hospitalization for students and staff.

Some UW-Stout students were asked about what they did over the three days out of classes.

Jake Kennedy, an undeclared freshman said, “For most of the time, I stayed in my dorm just messing around and watching YouTube videos. But surprisingly I spent a good chunk of it going places, either the MSC to watch videos there or to get food with a friend. I probably spent way more time outside than I needed to. It didn’t seem cold at first, but then it was freezing!”

Austin Paulson, a senior in information and communication technology said, “I mostly stayed inside and played video games. At one point, my roommate asked me to drive her to Walmart. That was a mission. Some of the water lines in our house froze up and didn’t thaw for a couple of days; our heater just wasn’t able to keep up. We had it set to 77 degrees, but it got down to 62 degrees inside. Even though we had a lot of house issues, I still enjoyed the break from classes.”

Kang Lau, a senior in information and communication technologies, said he stayed indoors and made sure his friends living in Chicago were doing alright with the cold. Ryan Sanford, a junior in computer networking and information technology stayed inside playing League of Legends and watching movies with his family.

A common theme with most students was trying to stay inside to avoid the cold. Whether working on schoolwork, doing work for their jobs, or just enjoying the days off, UW-Stout students did their best to stay warm.