One Image, One Question: January 30, 2019

By Edward M. Bury, APR

Some topics — sports, politics, popular culture — have widespread interest among the public at large, while others often are relegated to the fringes.

But when extreme weather becomes the focus, everyone takes notice.

A few months from now, this view from the back porch of our Avondale home will be much, much more inviting.

It’s that way here in Chicago and across much of the Midwest. Dangerous, unprecedented arctic cold has descended, dropping air temperatures to minus 20 degrees (or colder) and wind chill factors to minus 50 in some areas.

The technical term is polar vortex.

News reports shout caution — stay indoors, bundle up if you have to go out, help those in need, limit the time spent exercising your dog. We hear lots about the impact of the cold, its dangers, its causes and, unfortunately, its often devastating results on people, animals, buildings, cars, the economy and the environment.

That bring us to the question of this post: What does “cold” sound like?

To answer that question, earlier today (air temperature was minus 18), I ventured outside for around 15 minutes. What I heard this bright, sunny and frigid day was an almost eerie quiet. It was as if we surrendered to something we could not really control.

I recall three cars passed down our block during my short sojourn outside, and I encountered one man walking his dogs, hurriedly, I must add.  That’s it.

To the north, I could see jet planes heading to O’Hare International Airport, but of course, I could not hear any sounds.

Now back in our warm home, I’m encouraged by reports of a nearby laundry staying open to temporarily house those with no warm place to go, and ride share company Lyft offering no-cost rides to the many shelters set up in Chicago.

Later, I may venture out to listen again to the sound of cold.

 

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A Few Findings to Fling on a Frigid Night

By Edward M. Bury, APR (aka The PRDude)

The first post of the year should be on a profound topic, like the stuff they talk about on the Sunday morning news programs watched by people who don’t go to church.

However, on this night, I’m going to address a subject that may appear to be a little mundane, one that generally has an impact on our everyday lives — except for mundane activities like writing blogs, of course.

You guessed it — the weather.

Here in my home town of Chicago and across much of this great nation, a phenomenon called a polar vortex has brought unusually cold weather to places that normally get just plain old “cold” weather this time of year.  In fact, columnists and bloggers have even renamed my fair city to “Chiberia.”

Yesterday, the temperature climbed above zero Fahrenheit for the first time — seemingly — in months!  Actually, it was some 30-plus hours, but who’s counting.  Plus, we’ve had an unusually snowy winter to date.

As one who has survived many cold and snowy days in and around Chicago, let me share a few observations and images about what actually takes place in a large city when a polar vortex sweeps down from Canada, usually a place that’s friendly to us Americans.

It's still possible to get around on foot, despite the popular belief that people are trapped inside by snow and cold.

It’s still possible to get around on foot, despite the popular belief that people here are trapped inside by snow and cold. Well, that’s only when people get out and shovel their walks.

People do some wacky things, like pulling out lawn furniture as a way to make believe it's summer.

People do some wacky things, like pulling out lawn furniture as a way to make believe it’s summer.  Although, the sun  has been shining, so perhaps someone took an afternoon nap on this lounge.

Some motorists forget that the City of Chicago only sends crews out to plow streets, not clean snow off your car.

Some motorists forget that the City of Chicago only sends crews out to plow streets, not clean snow off your car. This guy or gal will probably get access to the vehicle by April.

And, cyclists forget that their bicycles would be better off following the nearly two feet of snow we've received this month.

And, cyclists forget that their bicycles would be better off inside rather than chained to a pole following the nearly two feet of snow we’ve received this month.  On second thought, only a dedicate thief will ride off with one of these.

Yes, it gets cold and snow a lot here, as it does in other parts of the nation that has four true seasons.  And, the record-setting cold we had this week — down to negative 16 degree — is downright dangerous.  Add a lot of snow, and simple tasks like getting around range from challenging to an adventure to a nightmare.

But we’ve been through this before, and we’ll get battered by Mother Nature again, perhaps this season.  We’ll survive, and we’ll be stronger for it.  A sense of humor, coupled with good gloves, a hat and boots, help.

Want more from The PRDude on “extreme” weather?  Read this 2011 post.