The polar vortex that prevailed recently in regions of the northern United States gave rise to ice-cold conditions. It has retreated but not before resulting in a number of weather-related deaths along with a spate of injuries. These included frostbite apart from broken bones, heart attacks, and even cases of carbon monoxide poisoning. Tourists visiting Niagara Falls enjoyed the unforgettable sights of large chunks of ice floating in the water.

However, there was disruption of communication in different places due to the cancellation of flights and snow-covered roads that affected the normal flow of traffic.

New Zealand Herald reports the below-freezing temperatures led to precarious conditions and deaths from causes like accidents on slippery roads, getting frozen when outdoors or in homes that do not have provisions for heating. Others came while shoveling snow. There were also instances of frostbite and hypothermia and it was reminiscent of a return to the Ice Age.

Frostbite is common in such temperatures

In Illinois, temperatures were near the -35C mark and reached the -45C (-49F) mark or worse with the windchill factor. That led to more than 200 cases of frostbite and hypothermia.

There are normally 30 frostbite patients in the whole of winter in Minneapolis but doctors had to treat 28 in just one week which revealed the extent of the threat. Doctors have observed that a large number of patients were unable to fend for themselves because they were either too old, too young, or mentally incapacitated. There were also people who suffered from injuries that stemmed from addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Another fallout from such low temperatures is the fear of carbon monoxide poisoning. New Zealand Herald reports these could be due to homes heated with a charcoal grill or warming up cars in a closed garage, or blockage of furnace vents by ice and snow.

The polar vortex is a wakeup call

According to ABC AU, in the opinion of meteorologists, the unprecedented cold wave that struck the northern US is, in fact, a cap of icy air that usually swirls over the North Pole. It entered the Midwest through Canada and led to the cancellation of flights, closure of educational institutions, and road accidents. There are reports of several deaths and incidents of frostbite because people failed to take proper precautions.

Examples are exposure to cold when their cars do not start or venturing outdoors without protective gear. Experts in climate science will no doubt analyze this polar vortex and confirm whether this could be a result of global warming.

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