Polar vortex takes SW Minnesota by storm

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Polar vortex takes SW Minnesota by storm

Hanna Vos

Hanna Vos

Photo taken by Hanna Vos

Hanna Vos

Photo taken by Hanna Vos

Photo taken by Hanna Vos

Hanna Vos

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Minnesota is no stranger to winter weather, but during the polar vortex many midwestern states experienced below freezing temperatures and bitter winds. Many schools throughout the state were closed over Jan. 29 and 30, including Southwest Minnesota State University (SMSU).

The temperatures in Marshall reached as low as -59°F with wind chill and had highs below zero both days. Michael Munford, the Director of University PublicSafety at SMSU, said that when he first heard about the incoming severe weather, his number one priority was keeping students and staff members at SMSU safe. To do this, he gathered information about road conditions and incoming weather before considering what course of action would be the safest.

He also took the time to send out emails to remind students of the upcoming extreme temperatures and to advise students on how to handle the weather. “I believe that the better
informed a person is, the better decisions that person will make” Munford said. Munford also expressed his concern for the safety of students with limited mobility and said that able-bodied people sometimes forget to consider how the snow and extreme temperatures impact a person with limited mobility.

He wanted to make sure that a student with limited mobility would be able to navigate campus
safely if the need arose. Munford added that one person was injured during the two-day break, but that the injury was not severe. The closing of the campus for two consecutive days was very uncommon.

Dr. Emily Deaver, who is a professor of environmental science, said that there was “…a similar polar vortex back in early 2014 but I don’t remember if the university was closed or not. It is very unusual for us to be closed for 2 days in a row.” The polar vortex impacted all kinds of students. Students who lived on campus were stuck in the dorms, and those who live off-campus were stuck at home. When students were asked what they did with their two days off, it seemed many used the time to watch Netflix and get homework done.

Taryn Bedow, a communications major and PSEO student, said that she “was stuck in Tyler” and spent most of her time “watching TV.” Another student who lives off-campus, Jamila Vue,a sophomore with an undeclared major, said that she “stayed home and watched Netflix and YouTube.” David Shittu, a senior with a double major in mathematics and computer science who lives on campus, shared that he tried to go to the Marshall 6 Theatre but was turned away. Shittu said the workers told him that “the heater was broken and it was too cold to sit and watch a film.”

Professors were also impacted by the weather and closing. “I had to revise my syllabi for two classes [and] reschedule a library visit for my Freshman Seminar class,” said Deaver.
Deaver explained what she thought caused the vortex, stating “[t]he polar vortex is a low pressure
area (a wide area of windy, cold Artic [sic] air) that sits over the North Pole. During winter, the size of this area expands, and sometimes part of it breaks off and moves southward, bringing very cold
air to the United States.” Cold winters are common in southwestern Minnesota, so it is important to keep warm and always be prepared.

Munford highly suggested having “a survival kit in your car in case you break down.” Wearing protective clothing, layers, and keeping spare clothes and blankets in the back of vehicles are other ways to stay safe during winter weather.

To see the current state of Minnesota roads, call 511 or download the 511 app.

 

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