The whirlpool of frigid, arctic air known as a “polar vortex” swept through the nation’s midsection Monday, pushing temperatures across the region well below zero.
By mid-morning on Monday, wind chill advisories and warnings from the National Weather Service stretched from Montana to New York, reaching as far south as Florida. Reuters reports that temperatures plummeted to -19 degrees F in Fargo, N.D., and -11 degrees F in Chicago.
Even the air temperature at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station in Antarctica was a comparable -11 degrees F.
In Wisconsin, where temperatures hovered between around -13 degrees F and -26 degrees F across the state on Monday morning, dairy farmers were prepared for the arctic chill.
"We grumble about it," Belleville, Wis.,-based dairy farmer Cory Brown told NBC 15. "But with the tools we have today, everything keeps moving, even when it's fairly cold. Our barn will actually work til about zero degrees.
Brown spent the past week insulating the barns, stocking up on special bedding and increasing his herd’s calories to help them stay warm.
"We're going to be looking for frost bite on the animals. With the colder snap earlier, we did have a little frost bite on some of our younger animals. It will definitely be a big concern here," he said. "Ourselves, working outside, even our employees working inside. This barn is not 100 percent cold-proof. It will be very chilly inside."
The South Dakota State University Extension also released a guide, available here, to help producers understand the effects of cold stress on beef cattle.
Dr. Brian Mahoney, medical director of emergency services at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, advises those who work outside – including livestock producers – to take extra precautions to prevent frostbite and hypothermia.
"People need to protect themselves against the intense cold," Mahoney said in an Associated Press report. "They have to wear a hat, they have to have face protection."
The bottom line, Mahoney said, is to avoid the cold if you can - or make sure all body parts are covered up and covered up well.
"You could die if you don't respect the environment you live in," he said.
NBC News reports that the chill will be relatively short-lived as temperatures across teh country begin moderating by the end of the week.
But will we see the polar vortex return later this winter?
Like any unpredictable weather phenomenon, whether or not this can happen again, “is hard to say,” Frank Giannasca, senior meteorologist with The Weather Channe said.