Chiberia and the Polar Vortex

By Melissa Ramirez

January 15, 2014

The Midwest had a rough start to the New Year with multiple snowstorms, icy winds and subzero temperatures. The weather in Chicago was so cold the first week of January that Lake Michigan was more of a menacing giant ice block than the beautiful lake we usually think of it as.

Inch after inch of snow covered the ground all over the Chicagoland area. By Sunday, Jan. 4, a foot of snow was already expected, causing unfavorable driving conditions and hundreds of flight delays and cancellations at both O’Hare and Midway.

On Monday, Jan. 6, Chicago experienced record-breaking low temperatures around -16 degrees and wind chills of -40 degrees and colder. Meteorologists credited the severe and drastic change in temperature to be the effect of a distorted polar vortex, which is a spiral of extremely cold air that usually circulates around the North Pole.

In total, the average snow accumulation of Chicago and its suburbs was around 35 inches, making the blizzard of 2014 the second snowiest winter since the 1978-1979 winter when a total of 90 inches of snow covered the ground.

“All day on Monday, all I saw were videos of people throwing boiling pots of water into the air and watching it turn into dust. It was that cold!” recalls junior Chris Kiefhaber.

Many businesses and schools, including Dominican, closed on Jan. 6 when temperatures and snow conditions were their worst and local news outlets encouraged people to stay indoors in order to avoid the dangerous temperatures. However, there were many people who still had to make it to work on that freezing Monday.

“Despite the cold, I still had to drive 25 minutes to work and it was the worst experience of my life,” said senior Janeth Romero. “Who in their right mind wants to go anywhere in this type of weather?”

Fortunately, for those who are looking for more reasonable winter weather, the arctic blast has moved on east and temperatures are expected to stay around 30 degrees for the next few weeks. The recent bout of warmer weather and rain has helped to melt the snow off of cars, homes and sidewalks, and many Chicagoans could not be happier.