Lynn Hummel: The wind chill factor in my polar vortex
Right now I have a pain in my polar vortex. Don’t ask me to explain polar vortex — it has something to do with upper level jet streams and is occasionally called polar night jet. But I know I have it because of the vital signs outside: temperature 24 degrees below zero, Northwest wind at 16 mph, wind chill 51 below.
I am writing this report on the morning of Monday, Jan. 6, 2014. Last Friday, Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton, looking at the weather forecast, declared that all public schools in the state would be closed because of the expected dangerous wind chills. Most North Dakota schools have also been closed. The forecast was absolutely accurate, though as I look out the window I see sunshine, blue skies and sparkling white snow — picture postcard scenery.
Except for nerds, all kids look forward to a snow day, as some have called this, although this is more of a wind chill day. So today, at this moment, kids are doing what kids always have done on snow days. Some are sitting at home, still in their pajamas, reading books. These kids will graduate at the top of their classes. Some are home texting. These kids will never learn to write in full sentences or spell correctly. Some are at home watching TV. They will watch TV for the rest of their lives. Some are painting or putting things together. They will become artists and inventors. Some are outside skating and skiing without caps on their heads. They will always be healthy but will have misshapen ears. Some don’t have jackets zipped up. They will always have low IQs. Some will be riding on snowmobiles or fishing through the ice. They will all have runny noses.
Not that adults are the best role models. Yesterday, a sellout crowd of 80,500 insane cheeseheads filled meat-locker Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin to watch their beloved Packers in a playoff game against the San Francisco 49ers. The temperature at kickoff in Green Bay was 5 degrees, which slowly dropped to 2 degrees by the end of the game. The wind chill was 12 below zero. Some were drinking beer to insulate themselves from the cold. But the other fans were well cared for — they were offered free coffee and hot chocolate. Many of the players — I expect those with the most concussions in their careers — wore, not short sleeves, but no sleeves. One player went sleeveless in a similar playoff game a few years ago said it took him three days before his arms thawed out. For the fans, there was no leaving the game early — the game wasn’t decided until the last second when San Francisco kicked a field goal to win 23-20.
What does a common-sense Hummel person do when it gets really cold? This one has a bowl of hot oatmeal and stays inside and writes. But there is a 17 year old outdoorsy Rudy Hummel (not related except we both have the “needs attention” gene) in Hermantown, Minnesota (near Duluth) who intends to sleep outside every night for a year. He started comfortably on June 7, then, when winter rolled in, built a snowcave he calls a “quinzhee” with thick walls, to keep out the wind. At night he pulls a bale of straw across the opening to shut off the draft. He has been wearing three layers on his legs at night with four warm shirts. He also sleeps with boots and a stocking cap he pulls down over his nose. With the weather getting colder and colder, he has added a hooded fleece top and another blanket on top of the usual four sleeping bags and three blankets. Underneath, there is a snow shelf on the bottom, then two foam pads, three inches of straw, a Therma-Rest sleeping pad, a thick foam pad and an empty sleeping bag. When he gets up in the morning and goes to school, his classmates probably consider him a cool guy. But he’s not in school today because it’s too cold. Stick with it Rudy, but stay warm.
What do you do when it really gets cold? We can all hope that nobody - nobody is out there sleeping under a bridge or in a cardboard box.