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Cold Temperatures

30 January 2019

For those outside of the United States, the Midwest is experiencing extremely cold temperatures today.

UPDATE: A Canadian visitor to TPV suggested that a great many people who live outside of the United States have no idea where or what the Midwest is. It’s generally defined as a region of the north-central United States around the Great Lakes and the upper Mississippi Valley and considered to include Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. The northernmost Midwestern states abut Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

From The Wall Street Journal:

The lowest temperatures in decades brought life to a near standstill for millions in the Midwest and beyond as a polar vortex blanketed the region, closing schools, businesses and even halting mail delivery.

The icy blast prompted governors to declare states of emergency in Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois as windchill temperatures fell to minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit across much of the Chicago area and near minus 70 across parts of the upper Midwest. Thousands of flights were canceled and Amtrak canceled all trains in and out of Chicago.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Having lived in Chicago and Minnesota during very cold weather, PG empathizes with visitors to TPV who are experiencing these temperatures. PG remembers that when the heating system in his abode was operating at full capacity and the interior temperature was slowly declining, it wasn’t a great feeling.

PG suggests it’s a good day to stay inside and read. Or write.

Books in General

19 Comments to “Cold Temperatures”

  1. I grew up in eastern Nebraska and remember seeing the Elkhorn and Niobrara rivers frozen hard enough to walk on. The Army Corps of Engineers later used explosives to break up the ice chunks so they didn’t rear down the bridges on the Missouri River.

    However, I did not walk ten miles to school, uphill both ways. It was one and a quarter miles, uphill to school, downhill back home. 😉

    • I actually did walk uphill, both ways, to high school. When I stayed after school for various activities. There was a hill going up and then another going down.

      I love that I can say, truthfully, I walked to school, uphill, both ways.

      But not in the snow. Okay, wait… FROM school. Not to. We carpooled in or I rode my brother’s bike.

  2. Ah, the “Cold Temperatures” tales.

    Anyone here old enough to remember the CB craze? (Yes, I’m showing my age. 😛 )

    My dad had one on the van he drove to work each day, talking to the truckers heading through town each morning. One chilly February morning he and another joker were both griping about the latest cold front that had passed through. My father had just muttered that if it got any colder he’d have to drip his pipes. He said the other guy was quiet for a long moment before saying ‘Just where the heck are you? I had to shovel two feet of snow to get out this morning!’

    (For those of you not ‘in the know’, the CB frequency range is in the upper HF band which – with the right conditions can ‘bounce’ off the upper atmosphere and ground – sometimes giving you amazing range.)

    I don’t know what the other guy was running, but dad had one of those little four watt toys and a clip-on antenna. SATX chatted with somewhere in northern Montana for another fifteen minutes before the sun came up and blew away their skip.

    My own little tale is brought to you by the USAF that thought I’d enjoy seeing Osan Korea for a year. Though I think it only snowed a dozen times, there was snow on the ground from Halloween to Easter (the last bits in the shaded corners would be almost gone and we’d get more.)

    Lucky me, I spent more of my tour there on the grave shift (2300 to 0700 for those wondering) and the first third of my shift was spent going bird to bird (aircraft) keying in the codes for the new day.

    It was a chilly night to be sure, no wind (for which I was very thankful) and it was coming up on 0200 when the radio sounded off to some joker warning us that at 0900 the temp would be a toe-numbing 45 degrees below zero Fahrenheit. Now that’s pretty cold to be playing outdoors in, and as he hadn’t mentioned wind or other reasons for the drop I keyed up and asked what the current temperature might be. He was quiet for a minute, no doubt figuring in windchill and humidity, but he finally reported that it was currently a brisk forty below (for those that haven’t noticed – that’s the one point where the F and C both say the same thing.)

    Now I couldn’t let that go, I keyed up and made a joke of him telling all us hard-working types that an hour or two after we were off-shift and most likely in bed it would be a whopping five degrees ‘cooler’. Our weatherman started to laugh into his microphone, but we heard someone take it away from him. “This is Captain So-n-so. Who said that?” Ha – like ‘I’ was going to say another word …

    Though another word was said. They waited until the captain had run on for a bit before keying their mike. There was about thirty seconds or so of dead silence followed by a much deeper voice than mine going ‘Heh heh heh’ and then giving us all a mike drop. Said captain then went into orbit without needing a JATO pack and that channel kind of died because no one wanted to say a word. Our other maintenance channel then came to life, mostly laughing at the captain’s five degree report.

    I finished my birds and headed on back to the shop to warm up before finding out what needed to be done next. My shift supervisor was at his desk and grinned when he saw my come in. ‘That was you on the radio,’ he accused. ‘All but the last bit,’ I admitted. ‘I know,’ he replied, ‘me and that captain’s gone round-n-round a few time. Thank you for setting him up for me …’

  3. As someone living in Taiwan, which is a far distance “outside of the United States”, I find it strange that you would say, “For those outside of the United States, the Midwest…” because most people outside of the United States have no idea where or what the Midwest is. Even for me, someone who was born and raised in Canada, I’m not exactly sure what constitutes the Midwest. But to me it’s also strange that Americans will insist on saying things like “Miami, Florida,” “Houston, Texas”, “Los Angeles, California” but then turn around and say something like “Toronto, Canada” or “Montreal, Canada” or “Vancouver, Canada”.

    • Good points, Chuck.

    • A key problem is that a whole lot of city names are not as distinctive as Houston.

      How about Versailles?
      Versailles, Indiana
      Versailles, Kentucky
      Versailles, Ohio
      Versailles, Tennessee
      Versailles, Pennsylvania
      Versailles, New York
      Versailles, Missouri
      Versailles, Louisiana
      Versailles, Illinois
      Versailles, Connecticut
      Versailles, France

      There is a huge amount of name duplication between states, many names of which originated somewhere else.

      • That’s not really the problem. I would agree that most cities in Canada are distinctive, but, the proper name is not Toronto, Canada, it’s Toronto, Ontario. Just as cities in America are denoted by city, state, Canadians cities should be denoted by city, province.

        • I agree with you that Canadian cities should be stated by city, province.

          I misunderstood the discussion point. I’ve had similar discussions with some Europeans over the years, but they often thought that provinces and states should be omitted (e.g Versailles, USA; Toronto, Canada).

          • I can agree with that. For example, Australia also has states but I have no idea which states either Melbourne or Sydney are in. But I think North Americans should be familiar with both the states and the provinces in the two respective countries. Once again, for example, as a Canadian I may not know exactly where Massachusetts is (or how to spell it), but I do know that it is a state in America and that Boston is in it.

    • But to me it’s also strange that Americans will insist on saying things like “Miami, Florida,… but then turn around and say something like “Toronto, Canada” ”

      Founded in 1809, Miami University is located in Oxford, Ohio. Miami, FL was founded in 1825.

  4. Did you see that they had to set the train tracks on fire in Chicago? I’d never heard of that before:

  5. I KNEW we moved to California from New Jersey at the right time – late last summer – but then was the Paradise Camp Fire, just upstate.

    Now I’m positive – I swam in the outdoor pool yesterday, and went for a ride on the trike the day before.

    I don’t think I’d survive the current weather. People like me are pretty much home-bound under those conditions.

  6. Greetings from Chicago. We went out for a walk yesterday. It was a short one. We’ll probably do it again today, just to make sure.


  7. This was the In Search of… episode about the last big cold snap in 1977.

    In Search Of… The Coming Ice Age

    This is useful for story in that they have known since 1958 that a slight warming could cause an Ice Age.

    The Coming Ice Age

    There were a ton of novels written in the 1980s about the next Ice Age, last time this happened. I preferred them to all the current novels about rising sea levels from global warming, they don’t fit reality. In all the current stories, the Arctic Ice clears.

    Green Earth by Kim Stanley Robinson is a good example of writing global warming stories that do not reflect reality. The story begins a full year after the Arctic Ice is gone. The novel becomes a dream of living in a tree house, sailing a regatta around the North Pole, and trying to restore some balance, all pure fantasy.

    The latest storms are caused when the Arctic Air flows over the Great Lakes, picking up moisture, then dropping it as snow. If areas of the Arctic Ocean become free of ice, then you have even larger areas of water to draw moisture from and cause storms.

    If the Arctic Ice actually clears, then you start having massive snow storms in the Northern Latitudes, and massive rain in the Middle Latitudes.

    – A year of snow, a year of rain, will kill billions.

    This was on the PBS NewsHour, 30 January 2019. In the second part they mention a region of ice that warmed, opening up a stretch of ocean, and triggered the latest shift of the Polar Vortex.

    Arctic weather enveloping Midwest blamed for at least 8 deaths

    Why the Midwest’s deep freeze may be a consequence of climate change

    Then there is one of my favorite movies:

    The Day After Tomorrow

    All of this goes into my story folders.

    • Now, imagine what would happen if this lasted for months.

      Midwest sees all-time low temperatures due to polar vortex

      I want to see future stories that match reality. So many novels today merely echo the fears and desires of people based on myth.

      What I found interesting, is that two movies that I watched lately had the villains claim that the Earth would be unlivable in just one or two generations. The fear has gone that deep.

      – The Predator (2017)
      – Venom

      Don’t get me started on Interstellar. HA!

      When I hear that stuff I think of Doctor Evil from Austin Powers asking for a “100 Billion” dollars in 1969, and getting laughed at.

      Dr Evil 100 Billion Dollars

      • Seen this?


        There’s more than one way to make a place unlivable.

        • Oh, I missed that one. The Wiki page shows that it’s just what I like. Thanks…

          Wiki – Fallen Angels (science fiction novel)

          BTW, In the 90s when it was written, it could be considered farce, but the story hits too close to home now. It has become all too possible. HA!

          • It is meant as both: a homage to old-school SF fandom and a cautionary tale about climate zealots.

            Like other Niven/Pournelle stories it gets both the science and the human factors all too accurately.

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