Polar vortex affects families of BYU students

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Ron Glover
A street in Plymouth, Minnesota. Temperatures reached 29 degrees below zero on Wednesday, Jan. 30. (Ron Glover)

A winter storm is devastating the Midwest, plunging states from Minnesota to Ohio into record low temperatures. Although Utah is safe from the freeze, many BYU students are concerned about their families in the Midwest.

The cause of this severe chill is known as a polar vortex. According to the National Weather Service, a polar vortex is a large area of low pressure and cold air by each pole. When it collides with the jet stream, it brings the cold air south, causing the temperature to drop drastically.

“I am grateful that I’m not suffering through it, but I’m praying for my family is OK,” said Allison Van Hoff, a freshman from Plainfield, Illinois.

According to Van Hoff, the weather in Plainfield was 47 degrees below zero with windchill on Wednesday, Jan. 30, a whopping 89 degrees lower than the 42 degree temperature in Provo.

Additionally, Van Hoff said the extreme temperatures outside are even affecting how well buildings can heat themselves. Van Hoff’s parents messaged her about how their house could not be heated above 70 degrees.

Public schools, universities and local businesses are closing their doors and insisting everyone stay inside. The United States Postal Service even suspended mail delivery in specific areas until the storm blows over, according to the organization’s official Twitter account.

“My dad works for the state, and they called him and told him to stay home,” Van Hoff said. “That never happens.”

Typically, when school is cancelled because of winter weather, it is a time for kids to go outside and play in the snow. This is not the case, however, when school closes for cold as opposed to snow.

Raymond Tichy
The driveway of a home in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, one of the areas affected by the freeze. (Raymond Tichy)

“Snow days are fun because you can go outside and have fun, but cold days you just stay inside and are bored,” said Lauryn Jacobs, a freshman from Watertown, Wisconsin.

Her twin sister, a student at the University of Wisconsin, was instructed by the university to stay home for the past few days because of the cold. Jacobs’ younger sister has been home from school for three days as well.

Living in Provo, there is not much Jacobs, Van Hoff or anyone in the freeze can do except check the weather and wait for the temperature to rise again.

“From here, I’m just trying to make sure they’re all right,” Jacobs said.

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