Today is the coldest day I have ever experienced. And that is not a hyperbole.
All morning, we watched the news coverage of the ways the frigid conditions were wreaking havoc across the Midwest. Over 2000 flights were cancelled. Highways were empty. Trains signals were unable to operate. We watched the faces freeze of presenters out on location, and hear them unintentionally slur their words. The State Governor of Illinois declared a state of emergency, and authorities have been urging people to stay indoors. In just five minutes in this cold, you will start to experience symptoms of frostbite. It all felt rather apocalyptic.
I’d heard it was colder in Chicago than in the North Pole, but I was keen to see just how cold it really was, if only to be able to say “ah, I remember the #PolarVortex 2014”. So we wrapped ourselves in as many layers as humanly possible, and headed outside to see what all the fuss was about.
And HOLYMARYMOTHEROFGOD it was cold! But then, as if on cue, the coldest and most brutal wind straight off Lake Michigan I’d ever felt almost knocked us over as we approached the end of our street. I do not have the words to describe how cold it was, the word cold being far too weak for such a wind. Without saying a word, we both turned and headed the half block home. That was the end of the experiment.
So what did it feel like? It quite literally took my breath away. My muscles tensed involuntarily. My glasses completely iced up and I couldn’t see where I was going. My eyeballs felt as though they were freezing in their little sockets. My cheeks and nose were whipped by the wind and felt sunburned for a good few hours after I came indoors.
On Twitter this afternoon, I saw new words springing up in response to the shared experience of Polar Vortex: ChiBeria (the merging of Chicago and Siberia), shovelrous (for someone who assists someone else in shoveling snow), AntarcDitka (in honour of Chicago’s most beloved football coach) were three of my favourites. I am hoping someone will make badges or stickers that proudly claim “I survived the Polar Vortex 2014”. I’d pay for one!