Mayo natives feel brunt of polar vortex

Posted in Connect on February 4, 2019.

Hailing from Erris, Henry Coyle is well used to winds that would cut through you but it’s nothing like the sub-zero chill he has experienced in Chicago in the past week. People have died, the city’s famous river has frozen over, thousands of flights have been cancelled, mail deliveries postponed, and people warned not to be outdoors for any more than five minutes for fear of frostbite with temperatures falling to minus 33 degrees Celsius and a wind chill of more than minus 46. Famed as the Windy City, that nickname has really taken on a new meaning for those living in Chicago during the past week.

“Trying to do anything is so tough. Going to the shops, putting petrol in your car. The other day I had to get air for the tyre of my car and it was a nightmare,” Henry explained from his Chicago apartment last Friday. “I carry a floor brush in the boot of my car to clean the snow off it; it has a long handle so you don’t get the snow all over you,” he explained, laughing. The deadly polar vortex – as it has been called – has left downtown Chicago like a “ghost city” with very few businesses open and public transport suspended. “ The majority of people are off work and schools are closed, which is very unusual for America. If you throw boiling water into the air it will be frozen by the time it lands,” said Mr Coyle, who moved to Chicago over a decade ago to pursue a career as a professional boxer.

Warm houses have been set up for the homeless with snow falling every day for 13 days in a row in the city. Between January 17 to 29, the city recorded snowfall of 15 inches. “There’s eight inches of snow in places around here and while the roads are clear, the side streets and parking areas at the back of buildings are not. People are having to dig out cars,” said Mr Coyle. Chicago’s winter had been mild up until this weather phenomena struck. The polar vortex has hit most northern states in the United States with Canada also affected. The area is caught up in the icy chill because a band of strong winds in the atmosphere around the North Pole that normally keep cold air locked in the Arctic region, have travelled south due to higher temperatures in the Arctic.

Castlebar’s Leanne O ’Connor is trying to adapt to cold temperatures in Toronto after moving to the Canadian city at the end of July. While the Torontonians are used to cold winters, this last week has been particularly bitter with temperatures falling to minus 16 degrees and a wind chill of minus 27. The hairdresser, who worked in Allure in Castlebar and Ballina, visited home last week only to return to bitter conditions but she has been “amazed “ at how well the Canadians adapt to the polar opposite seasons. “You get a good winter coat that you live in for six months and just make sure that you layer up and wrap up. There’s nothing standing around outside for too long. Life just keeps going. We had the most snowfall in 24 hours on record two days ago and it’s amazing to see how it’s dealt with in comparison to at home. Snow ploughs are out as soon as snow stops falling, roads are cleared and footpaths are gritted and everyone just gets on with their daily routines as if nothing was going on,” she explained.

by Marian Duggan, Western People, February 4th 2019

Image by Scott Olson, Getty Images




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