Good morning and greetings, NFL playoff fans. Well, if you like watching football played inside a freezer, there was a game for you last Sunday, as the San Francisco 49ers took on the Green Bay Packers on the frozen tundra called Lambeau Field. Temperature at kickoff time was 5 degrees, as 70,000 fans braved the icy conditions to root on their Packers. The team handed out free hand warmers, coffee, hot chocolate and blast furnaces you could put down your pants. But there was not joy to be in frozen Mudville, as San Francisco prevailed in the NFC wild card game to move on in the playoffs.
So why was it so damn cold, and why was 49er quarterback Colin Kaepernick not wearing any sleeves, gloves or mittens?
The cause was the polar vortex, which I mistakenly thought was the material in the lining in my jacket. What swooped down from the north is what some might refer to as rare air, which are the strong winds that circulate around the Arctic Circle, that come with a smooth aroma with touches of vanilla and patchouli.
This dense, frigid air, which had everyone but native Hawaiians shivering last week, came down from Santa’s place at the North Pole, where I purchase the ice for my annual Super Bowl party. We’re talking about extreme cold air brought down by the jetstream that hadn’t been seen in decades. We’re talking weather history here, folks. Word on the street has it that if you were under 40, you would have never experienced this kind of bitter cold. Or have an appreciation for ‘The Honeymooners.’
The coldest air in the Northern Hemisphere flooded half the nation with record breaking low temperatures. This arctic cold front affected 187 million people and a baby. I don’t know about you, but when I’m in sub-zero temperatures, I tend to get a little cranky. I hate it when I have thaw out my pajamas.
This little vortex party that engulfed the nation also came with deadly snowstorms, that had residents digging out in bitter cold conditions. Combine this with icestorms, the constant blowing of dangerous winds and the image of Al Roker in snow pants and you have a week that had the Weather Channel throwing a party to celebrate their Neilson ratings. It was so cold champagne was being served in slices.
So let’s look at some of the extreme lows from last week’s hypothermia festival. Chicago smashed a subzero record with -16 below, with a wind chill factor that made it seem like -40 below. Records fell in Indiana, Oklahoma and Texas, as three states had wind chills of 40 below. Virginia and West Virginia shattered marks that had stood for 60 years. It was 30 below in Vermont, where there is, believe it or not, an ongoing heroin epidemic. North Dakota was so cold it seceded from the Union. It was so cold paramedics were checking houses for people trapped under the weight of blankets.
New York City’s Central Park broke a 118-year-record last Tuesday when the temperature dropped to 4 degrees, a record that had stood since 1896. International Falls, Minnesota had a wind chill factor of 55 below last Monday. Residents in Embarrass, Minnesota thought they might break their record-cold temperature of 64 below zero. When you live in a place where the thermometers go to 100 below, you better be tough. The radio was broadcasting iceberg warnings to motorists.
When it’s colder in Tennessee than it is in Alaska, something is wrong with this weather picture. On the set of the television drama ‘Nashville,’ rival country singing stars Connie Britton and Hayden Panettiere were hugging each other just to stay warm. It was so cold in ‘Music City’ that parents were encouraging their kids to play with matches.
Last Tuesday, all 50 states saw freezing temperatures at some point. That included Hawaii, where it was 18 degrees atop Mauna Kea, a dormant volcano and the company which provides me with a constant flow of macadamia nuts. It was so cold that surfers were de-icing their boards on the North Shore.
In Chicago, the zoo’s lone polar bear had to be brought indoors, as she was missing the extra layer of blubber she’d have developed in the Arctic. I wish I could say the same. At this point in life all my favorite food are seconds.
Just so you know, according the National Weather Service, exposed flesh can freeze in as little as five minutes with wind chills colder than 50 below. We’re talking rapid frostbite and that’s why tank tops are never a big seller at the Arctic Circle.
And finally, in the midst of this polar vortex invasion, the U.S. set,a record last Tuesday for demands for natural gas. It was a day burrito lovers will never forget.
So since I would consider being in 50 degrees below conditions a semi-religious experience, for our photo follies today we are going back to a morning which has religious significance. I’m referring to Christmas, the day that they NBA has now made all its own, with five consecutive nationally televised games, which basically means 13 straight hours of NBA bliss.
I was shooting the sunrise from the cliffs above Fair Avenue along West Cliff Drive. As you can see, the backdrop was decorated for the holiday, as the morning sky was filled with red and orange streaks. Not a bad way to start off the day, as I was happy with the gift Santa brought me, although I was hoping for a pony.
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