Polar vortex freezes operations on campus, across Midwest

Kelton Holsen, Staff Writer

Temperatures as low as -30 degrees Fahrenheit with a windchill as low as -60 degrees forced Augsburg to cancel all classes and suspend normal operations on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Essential services such as food service, the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Residence Life stayed open during the coldsnap, but most other services on campus either partially or fully shut down, including the bookstore.

The closing was announced both via Augsburg’s internal alert system and in a special email sent out by Augsburg University provost, Karen Kaivola. “When weather conditions require canceling classes or suspending operations at Augsburg, we communicate these decisions through E2Campus Alerts, local media, the University website, and social media. We ordinarily don’t communicate the news by email,” said Kaivola. “However, given the dangerously low temperatures and wind chills forecast for our region, I am reaching out to make sure everyone knows that we have canceled classes and suspended operations today and tomorrow (both in Minneapolis and in Rochester).”

The sudden cold is the result of the polar vortex, a phenomenon that occurs when cold air from the Arctic Circle is released and flows south. The “New York Times” notes that polar vortex incidents are much more likely to occur as global warming intensifies due to the effects of melting sea ice on the cold Arctic air above.

While Augsburg students hid inside, schools, businesses and even postal services across the Midwest have closed down due to the extreme weather. According to CCX Media, Lunds and Byerlys are closing at 7 p.m. both days, and Cub Foods are halting online deliveries on Wednesday. Many small businesses across the Midwest are also closing down due to the cold. “When everybody else is staying in, you know, if you don’t have the traffic coming in it doesn’t really pay you to stay open,” said Curt Medina, owner of the Daily Dose coffee shop in Brooklyn Park in a statement to CCX Media. “Bundle up, stay warm, be safe, and we’ll see you next week,” said Medina.

Considering that temperatures in the Midwest on Tuesday and Wednesday were lower than in parts of Antarctica and Alaska, it’s no wonder that business owners and students alike were overly cautious. According to the “New York Times,” frostbite can set in within five minutes of skin being exposed to temperatures similar to those experienced during the deep freeze.

Temperatures on Wednesday were significantly worse than on Tuesday, with a high of -14 degrees Fahrenheit that fell as low as -30 at night. In addition to the other closures, Augsburg’s copy center and shipping and receiving center were closed during this time.

As of press time, classes were set to resume on Thursday.

This article was originally published in the Feb. 2, 2019 issue. 

Augsburg University on thursday January 30th, the second day of the University closure due to extreme cold. Photo by Jim Pfeffer.