Lifestyle Here’s how to drive safely in cold weather as the polar vortex blankets USDalvin Brown and Michael Doyle and Jessica Presinzano•Whether it’s this week’s polar vortex that’s bringing record-smashing cold to much of the nation, or any other apocalyptic-sounding winter weather phenomenon, motorists in the path of freezing temperatures face many driving hazards.Dealing with thickened fluids and frozen doors, along with black ice that can stop wheels from getting a good grip, even the most advanced drivers may find themselves wishing they had stayed home.To make matters worse, shorter winter days and longer nights mean that travels, and rescues, are likely to occur under less-than-ideal lighting conditions.Still, experts say the biggest danger facing motorists is the tendency to drive too aggressively.“Most bad weather accidents are caused by driver overconfidence,” says Tony Molla, vice president of the Automotive Service Association and an ASE certified automotive technician. „Traffic control and stability controls can give you a false sense of security, but even they cannot overcome the laws of physics.”Molla says that while most modern vehicles will help you correct if your car starts to slide on snow or ice, if you’re traveling too quickly, „then nature is going to take over and all the electronics in the world can’t help you at that point.”Tax Season: New tax form may catch you by surprise. Here’s what to know. Food Recalls: Purdue is recalling chicken nuggets, again Career: Can you ask your employer to let you work from home during a winter storm? Most driving experts, local politicians and first responders will tell you that it’s best to avoid the roads during all nor’esters, arctic blasts and bomb cyclones if you can.But for those who absolutely have to pick up bread and milk from the grocery store, here are some tips to keep in mind before and during your drive:Preparation Tips-Pack the following: Tow and tire chains, shovel, jumper cables, tool kit, wooden matches in a waterproof container, at least two flares, high-energy foods like unsalted canned nuts, dried fruits, and hard candy. Also, store a flashlight and extra batteries in your vehicle. Don’t forget your phone.Check tire tread: Hold a penny in between your thumb and forefinger from the bottom and insert the coin (make sure Abe Lincoln’s going in head first) in a groove where the tire tread seemed the lowest. If any part of Lincoln’s head is covered by the tread, your tires have a legal and safe amount of tread on them.Clear the snow: Snow left on top of the car can slide off and obstruct your vision and that of those around you.Charging your phone: Yes, the car is a great place to charge your phone if there’s a power outage in your home. But when doing so, don’t run your car in a closed garage, and make sure your tailpipe is clear of any snow or ice to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.Driving Tips-On the road: Decrease your speed and leave yourself plenty of room to stop. Accelerate and brake slowly on snowy roads. Do not steer quickly. You should allow at least three times more space than usual between you and the car in front of you.Use low gears to keep traction, especially on hills.Taking a hill: Get some momentum before you start up a hill, and let it carry you to the top. Avoid hitting the gas pedal on the way up because it can cause your wheels to spin. Once you’re at the top, reduce your speed and descend slowly.Getting a grip: Since black ice can be hard to spot, aim your car for spots on the road that offer better traction. This could be an area where sand or salt has been spread or higher parts of the road that are less prone to standing water. Even driving over a snow-covered part of the road is preferable to driving over ice.Snow starts to fall in Omaha, Neb.Getting stuck: Stay with the vehicle and don’t walk outside in severe weather. Keep the dome light on, because it uses a small amount of electricity and attach brightly colored cloth to the window. Conserve gas by turning the engine on only periodically to warm the car. Again, make sure the tailpipe is clear of snow.Getting stranded: Do not leave your car unless you know exactly where you are, how far it is to possible help, and are certain you will improve your situation. To attract attention, light two flares and place one at each end of the car a safe distance away.If you are sure the car’s exhaust pipe is not blocked, run the engine and heater for about 10 minutes every hour or so depending upon the amount of gas in the tank. Keep at least one window open slightly. Heavy snow and ice can seal a car shut.Skid recovery: If your car starts to skid, steer it in the direction you want the car to go. Avoid slamming or pumping the brake pedal.Extreme Weather Guide: What is the polar vortex?Contributing: Lori Grisham and Jerry Mosemak, USA TODAY NETWORK.Other Sources: National Safety Council, New York State Department of Motor Vehicles, Washington State Government Information & Services, Weather.com This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Here’s how to drive safely in cold weather as the polar vortex blankets US
Bitterly cold temperatures have left tens of millions shivering across the US Midwest
Chicago (AFP) – Brutally cold temperatures gripped the US Midwest on Thursday, freezing water mains, causing power outages, canceling flights and straining natural gas supplies.
Tens of millions of Americans shivered for a second day as the mercury dipped to record lows in several states.
More than a dozen deaths have been attributed to the sub-zero weather and a weekend snowstorm that blanketed the same region. Many of the cold-related fatalities were in Michigan, where the governor said the death toll was still being confirmed.
Schools and businesses remained closed in several midwestern states, people were encouraged to stay home, and travelers were stranded by grounded flights and halted trains.
In Michigan and Minnesota, natural gas supplies were under threat. Authorities asked residents to reduce heat consumption wherever possible and decreased heating in government buildings.
Water mains froze in Detroit, Chicago and parts of Canada, and power outages were reported in Iowa and Wisconsin.
Nearly 1,700 flights had been canceled in Chicago by Thursday afternoon. Airport crews worked in 15-minute increments on the tarmac to avoid frostbite.
Rail service Amtrak planned to begin partially restoring service after canceling all lines Wednesday in and out of Chicago.
The deadly, sub-zero temperatures were expected to lift Friday, but the misery would not end quickly in the roughly dozen states most affected.
„We are not done yet. We’ve got another 24 hours where the weather will be at dangerous levels,” Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer told a news conference.
The National Weather Service (NWS) said temperatures would slowly moderate, but the agency forecast wind chills Thursday would remain between -20 to -50 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 to -46 Celsius) over parts of the Upper Midwest.
The cold has frozen sections of Niagara Falls and sent blocks of ice floating down the river winding through downtown Chicago.
– More snow to come –
The Arctic air mass that descended from its usual northern rotation on Wednesday caused the second coldest day ever recorded in the Windy City, where residents reported hearing „frost quakes.”
Local television station WGN said booms heard by residents were likely from the frozen, water-saturated ground cracking under their feet.
The NWS said a low temperature of -21F (-29C) was recorded in Chicago on Thursday morning. The record low of -27F (-33C) was on January 20, 1985.
It said a historic low temperature for Illinois of -38F (-39C) had been reported in the town of Mt Carroll and was being reviewed before being declared a state record.
Record low temperatures were also reported in some towns in Iowa and Wisconsin.
Officials in multiple states warned that the extreme weather should be taken seriously, with the risk of hypothermia and frostbite setting in within minutes of exposure.
There were also concerns over another round of snow late Thursday, after a weekend snowstorm inundated the areas now frozen by Arctic cold.
„We’ve gone from snow to freezing temperatures, wind chill,” Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said at a news conference. „With more snow on the way, we’re not out of the woods yet.”
Hundreds of warming centers were opened for vulnerable residents such as seniors, and shelter capacities increased for the homeless.
Among the dead was an 18-year-old University of Iowa student.
He was found unresponsive behind a campus building Wednesday morning, when wind chill temperatures in Iowa City were -51F (-46C), according to local TV station KCCI.
– Calls for conservation –
While officials warned residents to remain on guard as long as the sub-zero weather persisted, authorities in Michigan and Minnesota were also asking them to turn down their thermostats to conserve natural gas.
Supplies were strained due to high demand from home heaters and from a fire at a natural gas compressor station in Michigan, officials said.
„This is not over until noon tomorrow. And we are asking people to continue to keep the thermostat down,” Michigan Governor Whitmer said.
General Motors and Fiat Chrysler suspended or curtailed operations at more than a dozen facilities in Michigan to conserve natural gas, the companies said.
City crews braved sub-zero weather to repair a number of frozen water main breaks that plagued Motor City neighborhoods.
Chicago reported 22 broken water mains, 16 of which had already been repaired.
America’s northern neighbor Canada was also contending with extreme cold, with frozen water pipes, snarled travel on a major waterway, and temperatures as low as -40F (-40C) on Wednesday.
A fire engulfed more than a dozen cars at Newark Airport in New Jersey on Thursday morning, sending plumes of thick black smoke into the air.
Aerial footage from ABC7 New York showed around 15 vehicles in flames at the rooftop car park, close to terminal C.
The fire department quickly brought it under control. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey said no injuries have been reported, and airport operations are running as normal.
It was the third significant fire in the New York metropolitan area on Thursday morning, where temperatures have plunged to -15C (5F). A fire destroyed a vacant one-storey warehouse close to subway tracks in Brooklyn shortly before 4am, and 170 firefighters were at the scene.
Less than half an hour later, a two-alarm fire broke out in the Bronx’s Morris Heights neighbourhood, on the fifth floor of a 46-story mixed-occupancy building.
As temperatures dip to record lows across the Midwest, millions are being advised to stay indoors. However, as this polar vortex invades major cities across the United States, what is done for those that can’t escape into the house for warmth? What is done in major cities to help the homeless in this extreme cold?
New York, Washington, D.C., Boston and Chicago rank among the cities with the largest homeless populations according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and they are all being affected by this week’s drastic temperatures.
Temperatures are competing with records throughout the United States as they drop lower than they have in recent history. These extreme temperatures are dangerous to be in for any extended period of time. Without the proper clothing, hypothermia can set in within the hour.
A homeless man who did not give his name bundles up in blankets Tuesday morning, Jan. 28, 2014, in downtown Chicago. (AP Photo/Kiichiro Sato)
All four cities have emergency plans in place that bring together city government, police, EMS, local shelters, veteran organizations and youth services. These plans go into action when temperatures dip below freezing. All these organizations share the same goal: get as many outdoor residents off the street as possible in this weather.
These cities, along with most other major cities, utilize the 3-1-1 non-emergency service number. In situations of extreme cold, city officials ask that you report the location of homeless people by calling this hotline. Through this service, officials have the ability to reach a greater number of people that remain outside.
Extreme cold consistently leads to crowded shelters throughout these major cities. Dora Taylor, public information officer at D.C.’s Department of Human Services, shared „our numbers almost double during a cold weather emergency. We average about 800 folks per shelter when we aren’t in a cold snap and in severe weather we will be seeing 16 to 17,000 people overnight.”
In cold weather, such as what cities are experiencing now, shelters in Washington, D.C., New York and Boston will not be turning people away. „These three cities are the only ones functioning with a Right To Shelter Law during a hypothermic event. We are legally bound to provide a warm safe space for someone during a hypothermia alert,” Taylor said. This law ensures that before a shelter can completely overcrowd government officials are opening seasonal centers on a per need basis.
Thus far, Chicago has been most significantly affected from this week’s blistering cold. Emergency preparation began Monday afternoon as the city attempted to place all homeless people in shelters or warming centers. They were almost immediately faced with overcrowding even as more shelters were opened and warming centers extended their hours.
The Chicago Transit Authority has begun deploying buses outside of shelters in order provide warmth to those unable to fit indoors.
As the extreme cold closes in on New York, Washington, D.C., and Boston, the National Alliance to End Homelessness urges people to use the hotlines available to them to best assist those outside in the coming days.
Nan Roman, president and CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness, advises doing more than dropping off soup or delivering gloves.
„People have to do what they feel from their heart, but when it’s this cold, you need to call someone and try to get first-responders to the person, not just assume that a coat or blanket will solve the problem,” Roman said.
Often, people will try to avoid going to a shelter overnight because of past experiences they have had, lack of available space and the potential health risks associated with overcrowding. Dialing 3-1-1 can be helpful in this situation as emergency personal can provide multiple resources.
Chicago’s Frigid Cold Forces Crews to Set Railroad Tracks Ablaze to Keep Trains Moving
Aerial footage shows the view of the Chicago River as the city experiences brutally cold temperatures—and could see a wind chill of 50 below zero on Wednesday. https://abcn.ws/2DHw8Du
Still, in light of the bitter cold, Amtrak isn’t taking any chances. The organization on Wednesday has canceled commuter train service due to the cold. As of this writing, Chicago’s temperature is 20 degrees F
Lake Michigan is freezing over as extreme cold weather hits parts of the U.S. this week.
The Midwest, from the Dakotas to Western New York, is experiencing some of the coldest temperatures to hit the region in more than two decades, according to The Weather Channel — and the lake is feeling the effects.
As wind chill temperatures in Chicago dropped as low as -51 degrees Farenheit on Wednesday, according to the National Weather Service, parts of Lake Michigan turned to ice.
Residents across Michigan, Chicago and Wisconsin braved the cold to share their photos of the icy lake to social media.
“My brother was on one of the few flights into Chicago this morning,” one tweeter captioned a shot of the lake from the air. “He took this photo of frozen Lake Michigan from the plane.”
Another poster wrote, “Anyone want to go to the beach?” over a shot of Lake Michigan as seen from downtown Chicago.
Chicago mayor Rahm Emanuel posted a video of the lake freezing over on Thursday morning. “Morning views from Chicago’s beautiful, frosty Lake Michigan,” he wrote.
On Wednesday morning, it was -23 degrees Farenheit in Chicago, and the National Weather Service recorded -30 in Wisconsin. The negative temps extend as far south as Kentucky, and according to The Weather Channel, things won’t get milder until the weekend.
On Instagram, users posted photos from Grand Haven, Michigan, and Holland, Michigan.
As the area freezes, it’s important to keep safe.
According to the National Weather Service, frost bite can set in with a wind chill of -20 degrees in just 30 minutes. The colder it is outside, the faster the condition — which causes a loss of feeling and a white or pale appearance in extremities, such as fingers, toes, ear lobes or the tip of the nose — will set in.
For example, winds blowing at 50 miles per hour when it’s -50 degrees outside can cause frost bite in 2 minutes.
If you’re concerned that you or someone you know may have developed frost bite, seek medical help immediately.
These temperatures can also cause hypothermia, when a person’s internal temperature drops below 95 degrees. Seek help immediately if you or someone you know may have developed hypothermia.