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polar vortex

Record-breaking cold and snowfall is numbing many parts of the U.S. from the Great Plains to the East Coast and north through New England. By Wednesday the cold snap is expected to spread farther south to the upper Texas coast in what is being described as an "arctic outbreak" by the National Weather Service.

The dead-of-winter temperatures come with roughly five weeks of fall remaining on the calendar.

Adobe Stock

It’s that time of year: the days are getting shorter, the temperature is dropping, and Michiganders are beginning to (reluctantly) accept that winter is near.

The last two winters have been overall warmer on average, but with multiple periods of “polar vortex,” or extremely frigid temperatures.

Snowshoeing in northern Michigan
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

There are multiple steps Michigan should take to ensure that there’s enough energy for homes and businesses if we have another polar vortex this winter.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer directed the Michigan Public Service Commission to figure out if Michigan’s energy system can handle extreme weather. This was after a cold snap across the state resulted in the shutdown of schools, businesses, and government offices.

One of the anchors used to hold Line 5 in place under the Straits of Mackinac.
Screen shot of a Ballard Marine inspection video / Enbridge Energy

 

Today on Stateside, prosecutors say they are dismissing all charges against eight people charged in connection to the Flint water crisis and starting the investigation from scratch. Plus, how autonomous "smart ships" could be part of the future of commerce and research on the Great Lakes. 

 

Snow
Jodi Westrick / Michigan Radio

Michigan has received a dizzying number of different weather-related warnings over the past two months, ranging from severe cold to freezing rain--and now, snow squalls. Most of these warnings are related to travel conditions. But what do they really mean?

Car stuck between walls
Gareth Harrison / Unsplash

Today on Stateside, the legislature revisits Michigan’s high auto insurance rates, but will a decrease in rates only come with less guaranteed medical care? Plus, a study looks at how an all-renewable energy grid would have fared in January’s polar vortex.

Listen to the full show above or find individual segments below. 

steve carmody / Michigan Radio

Winter weather has been disrupting High School sports schedules more than usual this year.

Dozens of school districts have canceled classes and other events, including sports, this year as the polar vortex sent temperatures plunging in January and winter storms have sent snow drifts deepening in February. 

Lawmakers proposing relief from limits on school closures

Feb 12, 2019
Mark Goebel / FLICKR - HTTP://BIT.LY/1XMSZCG

School closures across Michigan are on the rise because of the extreme winter weather of the last few weeks. Lots of people are worrying about the possibility of make-up days at the end of the year.

State Representative Ben Frederick (R-Owosso) is one of the lawmakers proposing plans to help school districts that exceed the annual nine day limit on  snow days.

"The legislation I'm introducing this week would exempt snow days which occur during a state of emergency from the allowance that's given to schools every year," said Frederick.

power lines in trees
Steffan Vilcans / Flickr - http://bit.ly/1xMszCg


a thermostat with blue dial on white wall
Dan LeFebvre / Unsplash


State government stays closed amid cold snap

Jan 30, 2019
michigan state capitol building
Wikimedia Commons

The State House and Senate have cancelled their Thursday session day, making Tuesday the only day they’ve met this week. This is due to the ongoing cold snap across the state. Lawmakers are expected to return for session on Tuesday, February 5.

Drummond Island as seen from DeTour Village
Lindsey Fountain

Today on Stateside, we check in with a fire department, an animal rescue group, and homeless advocates to see what work is like for them during the record-setting cold weather. We also talk with an artist whose first large-scale museum exhibition was inspired by her time in Flint. 

Updated Jan. 31 at 9:48 a.m. ET

How cold is it in the Upper Midwest today? It's so cold that if you toss boiling hot water in the air, it may turn to ice crystals. (Be careful out there and always check which way the wind is blowing, folks. People tend to scald themselves doing this.)

Man using snowblower
Jill Wellington / Pixabay

Michigan is in the middle of a severe cold front with sub-zero temperatures forecasted for the next few days. As a result, Governor Gretchen Whitmer has declared a state of emergency.

Dale George is with the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security division. He says the emergency declaration will let the state provide resources to cities and towns dealing with the cold.

Sami / Flickr

Winter has come for the Lower Peninsula. Schools were closed across the state Monday, as was pretty much everything else

With heavy snowfall and record-breaking low temperatures in the forecast throughout the week, here's what you need to know to stay warm and safe.

Snowshoeing in northern Michigan
Emma Winowiecki / Michigan Radio

Another year, another frigid January in Michigan. Once again, temperatures are set to reach extreme lows over the next week. Scientists predict this extreme winter weather could be the new normal for the Midwest, thanks to climate change.

Some of us still need some clarification on how climate change is making winter worse, so we're republishing this story from the last time it reached these low temperatures in January 2018.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Everyone knows this has been a brutally cold winter in Michigan.

And not just for people.

Polar cold temps have resulted in Michigan lakes and rivers icing over to record degrees. That’s left little open water for ducks to feed.

Sami / Flickr

Those of us who lived through last winter are now familiar with the term "polar vortex." But are we using that phrase correctly? Sara Schultz is a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in White Lake. Exactly what IS the polar vortex? And what is it not?

Listen to Sara Schultz above

Cold temps cover 79 percent of Great Lakes in ice

Feb 9, 2014
National Park Service

CHICAGO (AP) - This winter's bitter cold temperatures in the Midwest have covered a stunning 79 percent of the Great Lakes in ice.

It's not a record, but it's well above the long-term average of about 51 percent.

Lake Michigan is about 63 percent frozen. And the second largest lake in the system, Huron, is about 85 percent covered.

Lake Erie, at 93 percent, has the most ice cover.

The data comes from the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Life-threatening wind chills are keeping Michigan's homeless shelters full. The shelters have been at or above capacity for roughly two months.

Darin Estep is the director of community engagement for Volunteers of America in Lansing. He says the ongoing cold is taking a toll.

“It’s asking a lot of folks to sleep on a cot every night,” says Estep. “It’s asking a lot of the staff to take care of the facility every night. There’s a lot of conversion that needs to take place every night to turn a day center into a sleeping area.”

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. (AP) - Another round of frigid air is making its way into Michigan, leaving roads slippery as dangerously cold temperatures are expected in places this week.

In suburban Detroit, state police reported multiple crashes on the freeway system.

In the Upper Peninsula community of Sault Ste. Marie, it's 5 degrees below zero on Monday morning.

A hazardous weather outlook was issued for much of the state, with wind chill readings of 10 to 20 degrees below expected late Monday and early Tuesday in the southern Lower Peninsula.

Ships on Lake Superior battle ice

Jan 11, 2014
Credit Coast Guard News (CC-BY-NC-ND) / http://www.flickr.com/photos/coastguardnews/11358608774/

SUPERIOR, Wis. (AP) Ships using Lake Superior are having a tough time due to the worst build up of ice in decades.

Wisconsin Public Radio News reports the National Weather Service started tracking freeze-ups in 1978, and says this is the second-fastest and thickest ice-up in 35 years. Coast Guard Soo Vessel Traffic Director Mark Gill says this is the worst since 1989.

user GlenArborArtisans / YouTube

While temperatures are (finally) starting to climb out of subzeros across Michigan, signs of the so-called polar vortex – a low-pressure system that brought arctic temperatures across the country – are still lingering throughout the state.

For instance, boulder-sized ice balls have taken hold of the shores of Lake Michigan. Here’s a video captured on the lake’s coast in Glen Arbor, Michigan:

As MLive’s Heidi Fenton reported, the chunks form when large ice sheets break off into smaller pieces of ice. When waves hit the ice sheets, the ice chunks form into perfectly round, frigid spheres, with some estimated to weigh about 75 pounds.

If temperatures stay low enough, the ice balls – which our webmaster claims look exactly like chocolate truffles he has at home – may continue to grow, AccuWeather.com reported:

"It's possible that the ice is accreting like a snowball or like a hailstone, and that they keep growing," said AccuWeather.com Meteorologist Jim Andrews.

cncphotos / flickr

This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley talk about a plan to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, the polar vortex and what the new leadership on Detroit City Council will mean for the city.

Purple signifies the extreme cold in the U.S.
NWS

The temperatures certainly are extreme. Last night, it was colder in Michigan than it was at the South Pole.

Parts of the state saw temperatures reach 16 below zero with wind chills exceeding 40 below zero.

The "polar vortex" has brought air to the Midwest that normally stays way up in the arctic.