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Polar vortex: America in deep freeze

Frozen breath formed ice around the face of a Minneapolis resident on Wednesday.reuters

We may not be in tank tops in Boston, but compared to the rest of the country blasted by the rare polar vortex, it’s been a veritable Bahamas. Though temperatures here bottomed out in single digits last week and seemed stuck in the teens for much of this week, our weather had nothing on the record 16 below zero in Chicago Monday and 23 below in Minneapolis. To demonstrate how cold it was, journalists from Minneapolis to Green Bay hurled pots of boiling water up into the air in videos to watch the water fall back to the ground as snow.

In frigid weather, it’s tempting for residents of cold climates to engage in similar stunts, or to brag about their tolerance for sub-zero temperatures. But the risk to human life and health extended far to the south to places like Atlanta, where hats, scarves, and insulated duck boots aren’t quite so common. It’s noteworthy that the approximately two dozen deaths attributed to the cold weather happened not just in the winter-hardened states of Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, and New York, but South Carolina and Louisiana as well. Meanwhile, even though Greater Boston was spared the worst of the polar vortex, residents still contended with an uptick in burst pipes and other weather-related calamities — reminders that it could have been far worse.