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Thursday 23 May 2019
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Polar vortex ravages US

8 killed, Trinis afraid to go out as

A tourist bundles up as he visits the Lincoln Memorial on the 
National Mall in Washington, DC, yesterday, as the US ex
periences a Polar Vortex. AFP PHOTO
A tourist bundles up as he visits the Lincoln Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC, yesterday, as the US ex periences a Polar Vortex. AFP PHOTO

MELISSA DOUGHTY

Eric Mannweiler of Indianapolis, Indiana, is concerned for his family and friends when they go out. After five minutes outdoors, icicles form on their eyelashes in the polar vortex that has swooped down on the US Midwest.

Mannweiler, a panman who has visited TT for Carnival and played with bands like BP Renegades, told Newsday in a Facebook interview that, since the vortex and its arctic temperatures hit, he had tried to stay indoors, limiting his time outside to five minutes or less.

He works from home, so his work has not been affected by it, but many businesses are closed or allowed people to work from home.

He added, “I have friends whose windows cracked in their homes, power went out, pipes froze...”

The polar vortex has been the cause of at least eight reported deaths, including that of an 18-year-old University of Iowa student, international media said.

A cntraveler.com story said, “As of 11.30 am January 31 more than 2,000 flights have been cancelled for Wednesday, when temperatures hit their lowest, according to flight tracker FlightAware.”

Caribbean Airlines flights remain unaffected so far.

CAL’s corporate communications department said, “Caribbean Airlines continues to monitor the weather system affecting the Midwest and other areas in the US. Thus far, the airline’s operations remain unaffected.”

Lake Michigan has frozen over as result of the weather phenomenon. The US Midwest and Northeast, a January 28 CNBC online article said, were braced for “dangerous subzero temperatures, as the polar vortex was set to blast arctic conditions unusually far south...

“The system was set to extend from the Dakotas through New England, with Chicago expecting temperatures to plunge as low as -25 degrees Fahrenheit overnight Tuesday into Wednesday,” it reported the weather service as saying.

Senior TT meteorologist Carol Subrath-Ali defined the polar vortex as a swirling, low-pressure region of cold air in the upper atmosphere at the earth’s poles.

Explaining the phenomenon, Subrath-Ali said, “The very cold air in a polar vortex is kept within the polar regions by fast-moving winds (jet streams) that surround it. The jet streams associated with the northern polar vortex have weakened this winter season, and this has allowed bitter-cold air to drift further south of the Arctic region, where it would normally be confined.”

As a result of this drift, she said, Canada, North America and the UK are experiencing colder than usual winter temperatures.

“The icy arctic blast accompanied by strong wind chill factors has brought extreme sub-zero temperatures and has plunged several areas into record lows.”

The “extreme dry, cold air” she said, can result in severe frostbite, nosebleeds and death due to exposure. (See page 24.)

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