Record cold weather strikes U.S. East Coast and the South

 On Jan. 3, snow fell in Tallahassee, Florida. It was the first time the city has seen snow in 28 years.

On Jan. 3, snow fell in Tallahassee, Florida. It was the first time the city has seen snow in 28 years.

Since late December, the East Coast has faced relentless cold weather. First, a bomb cyclone, which is a severe storm formed by an unusually rapid drop in barometric pressure, blanketed the coast in snow in early January. However, when the cyclone finally subsided, a polar vortex emerged, bringing even colder temperatures.

During these weeks of extreme weather, some parts of New England were colder than daytime temperatures on Mars. On Thursday, Dec. 28, 30 record lows were set across the country. High speed winds also dropped the perceived temperature 20 to 30 degrees lower than the actual temperature.

Junior Chloe McNamara encountered the severe cold when she toured colleges in Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts in mid-January. Although the bomb cyclone was weakening by the time she arrived, the weather was still unusually frigid.

“I was outside when it reached -6 degrees,” McNamara said. “It wasn’t as cold as it could have been, but it was still really cold.”

Despite the subzero temperatures, McNamara managed to enjoy her trip and stay warm.

“The cold doesn’t really bother me,” McNamara said. “If I have a good coat, I’m fine.”

Senior Adam Noworolski also experienced this weather when he visited his grandparents over the holidays in Shelton, Connecticut, where he faced temperatures around -20 degrees.

“When we first got there it actually wasn’t too bad, but then it got colder,” Noworolski said. “And then it kept getting colder. And then apparently some polar vortex hit.”

Later, when Noworolski tried to return home, he encountered another consequence of the extreme weather: flight delays.

“My flight was canceled for two or three days,” Noworolski said. “I was supposed to be back on Friday, but I actually got back on Monday.”

Noworolski was not alone in his travel experience. Thousands of flights were delayed or canceled due to severe weather during the bomb cyclone, with over 4,300 flights scheduled to leave eastern airports canceled in just one day on Jan. 4.

The South was also been hit severely by unprecedented winter weather, including Winter Storm Inga. Although the storm only brought a few inches of snowfall, the frigid weather and unusual precipitation threw some southern states with typically milder climates into disarray.

Throughout the South, schools were closed for weather far longer than expected. In Baton Rouge, La., virtually all school districts called for snow days because the major roads leading into the city were closed.

Inga’s extreme weather was far more than a minor inconvenience; the winter landscape was dangerous and occasionally fatal. Ice and snow on the roads, especially in areas not equipped with snow plows, caused thousands of car accidents, and people were hospitalized with hypothermia. North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana all declared states of emergency for some counties unprepared to handle the snow, ice and freezing temperatures.

The storms are subsiding, and temperatures are gradually rising on the East Coast and in the South. However, even after Inga and the polar vortex are long gone, the World Economic Forum still predicts that extreme weather events will be the most severe threat of 2018.

Posted on February 12, 2018 .