Schools closed, flights were canceled and much of the U.S. shut down as bone-chilling temperatures swept across the Midwest and freezing temperatures engulfed the South over the past few days -- as we all know.
Most people are probably so sick of hearing the words "polar vortex" that they don't want to hear them again in this lifetime. But before we write these words off forever, let's take a more comical look at this historic deep freeze and explore some of the most unusual, wackiest headlines that have emerged.
You know it's freezing outside when a prisoner escapes, but quickly turns himself back in because of the cold. Yes, one Kentucky prisoner successfully escaped from the Blackburn Correctional Center
on Sunday, but walked into a motel and turned himself in the next day, AP reports. Temperatures in Lexington dropped to a painful -20 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday and he was only wearing pants, a shirt and a jacket.
(Photo by Elizabeth Thomsen/Flickr Creative Commons)
Anana, a 12-year-old polar bear at Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo, couldn't even handle the Arctic temperatures that hit the Windy City. With temperatures dipping to -40 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday, Anana was kept
inside a climate-controlled environment. Because Anana isn't fed a typical Arctic polar bear diet of seals and whale carcasses
, she lacks the up-to-five-inch fat layer that wild polar bears have, a zoo spokeswoman told AP.
Anana wasn't the only zoo animal brought indoors. At the National Aviary in Pittsburgh, bald eagles and African penguins
were "taken off exhibit" until temperatures rose, reports CNN.
(Photo by Ralph Lee Hopkins via Getty Images)
Okay, so the polar vortex might have made people go crazy. Yes, it's awesome to watch boiling water instantly appear as mist because it's frozen into tiny ice particles
, but how many times are people going to throw boiling water into the air and then watch it freeze -- and scald themselves?
If you missed the hype, Buzzfeed's comical round-up
of people tweeting, filming and scalding themselves over the past few days can get you up to speed. "Tried to do the boiling water trick but the water burned my hand and I dropped the cup and it broke... Fail would be an understatement," tweeted one adventurist, as featured on Buzzfeed. This "experiment" has been so popular that many news organizations, from Time
to the Los Angeles Times
, have even reported on the fad.
(Photo by Jody/Flickr Creative Commons)
Residents of Toronto and around Ontario have been hearing loud explosions and experiencing mild earthquake-like conditions over the past few days. But they're not explosions, sonic booms or earthquakes themselves; instead, they're cryoseisms, or "frost quakes
They occur when rain and water seep underground and freeze. "Water expands when it freezes, and when it expands in frozen soil, it literally puts a lot of stress on that dirt
and will release that energy all of a sudden, very much like an earthquake releases that energy and shifts the ground,” meteorologist Natasha Ramsahai told City News.
Fortunately, frost quakes occur rarely, aren't a threat to people and are localized, explained Outside magazine.
(Photo by David Cooper via Getty Images)
Last week, Winnipeg, Manitoba was colder than Mars (seriously) on December 31, and it's not the only place to experience other-worldly temperatures.
Temperatures in Chicago, the Midwest and into Canada dipped well below sub-zero
with the wind chills on Monday and Tuesday. According to a Smithsonian blog, the Red Planet has been experiencing temperatures around -13 and -24 degrees Fahrenheit recently
, warmer than many locations in North America.
But, relatively speaking, the polar vortex doesn't hold a candle to Mars: Temperatures there can range from 70 to -225 degrees Fahrenheit.
(Photo by NASA/Getty Images)
This Arctic air mass also caused extreme temperature inversions. On Monday, Memphis was 20 degrees colder than Anchorage, Ala.
; Atlanta was colder than Moscow, Russia; and Nashville was colder than Albany, New York. On Tuesday, Marianna, Fla. was two degrees colder
than Anchorage. Yet in the week leading up to vortex, there was a 115-degree difference
between Florida and Minnesota. Needless to say, southerners were probably in a bit of a shock on Monday and Tuesday.
(Photo By Matt Stroshane/Bloomberg via Getty Images)
What do beet juice, cheese brine, molasses and potato juice have in common? They're all unconventional methods being tested to thaw roads during frigid weather
, according to AP. Plain salt is basically ineffective under 16 degrees, so these methods will provide easy access -- and often cheaper and healthier
-- alternatives. Let's just hope roads don't start smelling cheesy and runoff doesn't turn purple.
(Photo by John Moore/Getty Images)