Dealing with Extreme Cold in Chicago and Southern Places

CHICAGO – Extreme cold in the United States can put a much harder burden on infrastructure, homes, and people. The kinds of Arctic winter blasts that hammer Northern Canada is not as common in the United States. In fact, if you head far enough south in the United States, homes don’t have furnaces. Air conditioning is a far more common feature in the deeper south.

This week, temperatures in the United States have dropped to record levels. Reuters is reporting that temperatures with the wind chill factored in could be as low as -70f.

New York Snow Squall

The frozen conditions are caused by the Polar Vortex.

NOAA Image Polar Vortex
NOAA Image Polar Vortex

Keeping the trains running on time in Chicago involves a neat trick. The rail lines are connected to natural gas and the rail lines are heated to keep the connections going.

The video shows the gas-fed switch heaters at the A2 interlocking in Chicago.

Often during periods of extreme cold in the southern United States, many people simply don’t know what to do. Homes are not insulated like in Canada. In Florida, for example, the idea of having a furnace in one’s home would seem silly. Frozen pipes in buildings are a far greater problem in the United States.

As Canadians, often, even in Canada people from the northern parts of Canada will make sport of Toronto for example which often seems ill-equipped to deal with cold weather extremes. While Toronto has a Cold Weather protocol that opens warming stations and makes allowance for homeless and others at risk, the City of Thunder Bay does not.

In Europe, cities like Paris, London and Berlin are not used to the kinds of winters that here in Canada are seen as normal.