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Extreme Weather Due To Polar Vortex Across The U.S. Causes Misery

Forecasters predicted temperatures in the mid-40s F on Sunday and low 50s F on Monday in Chicago.

USA, Weather
A harbor light is covered with snow and ice on the Lake Michigan at 39th Street Harbor, Jan. 30, 2019, in Chicago. VOA

Hundreds of millions of Americans spent Wednesday seeking relief from some of the coldest weather ever recorded in the continental United States.

Officials said temperatures were below the freezing mark in 85 percent of the country, excluding Alaska and Hawaii.

Chicago recorded a low temperature of about minus 23 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 30 Celsius) — not a record, but close to it. Minneapolis recorded minus 27 F (minus 32 C). In Sioux Falls, S.D., the mercury dropped to minus 25 F (minus 31 C).

Wind chills reportedly made it feel like minus 50 F (minus 45 C) or worse in several parts of the Midwest.

USA`, Weather
A man is bundled up against bitter wind and blowing snow as he operates a snowblower, Jan. 30, 2019, in Buffalo, N.Y. The area received more than a foot of snow since Tuesday and was under a blizzard warning. VOA


Downtown Chicago streets were largely deserted after most offices told employees to stay home. Trains and buses operated with few passengers; engineers set fires along tracks to keep commuter trains moving. The hardiest commuters ventured out only after covering nearly every square inch of flesh to protect against the extreme chill, which froze ice crystals on eyelashes and eyebrows in minutes.

The city used transit buses, with nurses on board, as emergency warming centers for the homeless.

Doctors in Minneapolis said they were treating cases of what they called fourth-degree frostbite, in which limbs are frostbitten down to the bone.

Mail carriers, known for making deliveries through rain, sleet and snow, draw the line at life-threatening cold. The U.S. Postal Service canceled mail service in parts of 11 states Wednesday.

USA, Weather
Icicles hang in front of a door at a bar in Mequon, Wisconsin, Jan. 30, 2019 as temperatures were subzero and wind chills were at -50 degrees F. VOA

With nine weather-related deaths reported so far, the cold was spreading east into New England and the mid-Atlantic states. Commuters and schoolchildren could expect to wake up to temperatures in the single or low double digits Fahrenheit in Washington, Baltimore, New York and Boston.

Meteorologists blamed the weather on a breakup of the polar vortex — cold air above the North Pole that has been pushed south across North America because of a blast of desert heat from North Africa.

Experts said it was possible that climate change was playing a part in the extreme cold. But they said it was hard to pinpoint the cause of a single weather event such as this week’s cold blast.

“It is not out of bounds with the historical record,” University of Miami professor Ben Kirtman said. “You get storms that are bigger than other storms. There is a big part of this that is part of the natural variability of the climate.”

Also Read: As Polar Vortex Hits The U.S, Donald Trump Questions Climate Change

Government scientists said increased moisture in the atmosphere because of global warming might bring on a higher number of severe snowstorms in the winter and more powerful hurricanes in the summer.

This week’s cold weather will be just a memory within a few days. Forecasters predicted temperatures in the mid-40s F on Sunday and low 50s F on Monday in Chicago. In Washington, the temperatures are expected to be in the mid- to upper 50s for those two days. (VOA)

Next Story

Know How the Coronavirus Pandemic is Making Employees Suffer in USA

Suddenly Out of Work, US Service Employees Left Hanging

USA employment
Ever since the outbreak of coronavirus, many workers in USA are now unemployed. Pixabay

By Dora Mekouar

Now that the restaurant where he works full time in the Washington suburbs is closed, server Gerardo Espiell, 23, plans to move back in with his mother and sister to make ends meet. Together, he’s hopeful they can make the mortgage.

“Honestly, it’s kind of crazy,” he says. “I’m very calm about everything. I’m just taking it day by day. I have some PTO (paid time off) saved up, so I’m using my PTO.”

In San Francisco, Anita Reyes, who had her fourth child six months ago, usually waitresses at SanJalisco, the family restaurant owned by her mother, Delores. Her husband works there, too.

USA employment
Server Gerardo Espiell says he has no savings because all of his earnings go to rent and other living expenses, USA. VOA

“It’s overwhelming,” she says. “I thought I’d come in and help her because she can’t afford the workers. We’re living off this food (in the restaurant refrigerator) right now. We’re taking it home to our families.”

Percy Saloman, who drives for a ride-hailing service in Virginia, is still working, but he’s putting in longer hours for less money.

“Yeah, I’m worried, because right now, this is my second shift, and I only made like $70. And usually, I finish with around $150 or something,” he says.

USA employment
Server Syndi Brooks, a married mother of one who works at a San Diego eatery, relies on tips to help support her family,USA. VOA

Saloman, Espiell and Reyes are among millions of American workers in service industries that are among the hardest hit by restrictions imposed by many U.S. states trying to stem the spread of the coronavirus known as COVID-19.

Some states are telling people they must stay home. Businesses that are deemed as nonessential are closing.

About one in six workers, some 17% of U.S. employees, could be impacted by social distancing, according to an analysis from Ball State University.

“Four-and-a-half million retail sales folks, 3.5 million food preparation, almost 3.5 million cashiers, 2.5 million waiters and waitresses,” says Ball State University economist Michael Hicks. “So, those numbers add up pretty quickly to about 28 million workers in the United States who are immediately affected by the social distancing measures that have been taken at the federal, state and local level in the U.S … a very vulnerable share of the workforce. These are mostly low wage workers. (They) face almost immediate financial problems.”

Congress is debating a relief package that could include a direct cash payment to U.S. adults.

“I think something like at least a short-term universal basic income that pays everybody $1,000 a month for three, four or five, six months,” Hicks says. “We could collect some of that back in taxes from the better-off, for those of us who are unaffected by this. Those are the sorts of policies that are going to, I think, sustain households through this short-term social distancing that we’re facing right now.”

Money like that could go a long way for some workers.

USA employment
Ride-hailing driver Percy Saloman, picking up a fare in Northern Virginia on March 17, 2020, is driving longer hours for less money, USA. VOA

“That would help a lot, actually,” says Syndi Brooks, a server in the San Diego area. “That would hold me over for a few months.”

The 29-year-old has a 7-year-old daughter. She and her husband, a tattoo artist whose business is also suffering, are living off money they’ve saved.

“I’m worried. I’m lucky to have some savings, and I know a lot of people don’t,” Brooks says. “This wasn’t what we intended to save for. We were intending to save for a house.”

Espiell, the server from Virginia, says help from the federal government could make all the difference, especially with money already being tight.

“Not just me, but, like, everybody in the service industry sometimes live paycheck by paycheck, especially, like, it’s been very slow this winter, too,” he says. “Not a lot of people have been coming out, so, everybody’s trying to save up all that winter money by not going out and all that stuff. Or, like, you know, some people don’t eat.”

Saloman intends to keep driving. Beyond that, he admits to having no plan for his, and his family’s, future.

“So far, the only thing that I can do day by day, is just to keep working longer shifts to be able to provide the same income that I was bringing in before,” he says.

Also Read- 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo to be Postponed Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

Reyes, the San Francisco server, is hopeful her family and its business can see the crisis through.

“We’re staying together,” she says. “If this is only a timeout for a little bit, then we’re sticking together.”  (VOA)