talking about the weather

Polar Vortex Freezes Everything, Traps Amtrak Passengers for More Than 13 Hours [Updated]

An Amtrak train kicks up fresh snow as it speeds southbound on Friday, Jan. 3, 2014, in Schodack Landing, N.Y. The National Weather Service has posted winter storm warnings through Friday morning in most of the state. Temperatures are in the single digits or below zero, with the wind making it feel as cold as 20-30 below zero in some areas. (AP Photo/Mike Groll)
A snowy Amtrak train last week in New York. Photo: Mike Groll/Corbis

Maybe getting up and into work this morning was miserable — it’s a mess, everywhere, thanks to this polar vortex thing — but consider tempering your whining, because these people had a really terrible night: Some 500 people on three Amtrak trains were stuck overnight in Who Knows Where, Illinois, owing to the weather. According to the AP, the trains got stuck around 3 p.m. local time on Monday, and were not rescued until this morning, around 6 a.m. Needless to say, it was miserable.

The conditions is cold, we’re wearing coats,” one woman onboard told ABC. “And my husband is a diabetic. He hasn’t had any food all day.” Oh, and: “The bathrooms are flooded. The sinks are full with water and the toilets are flooded.”

(In Amtrak’s telling, “We do have some folks that are sheltering in place out there on the train. They are being well taken care of. There are supplies, there’s food, there’s power on the train.” So, yeah, NBD.)

It was almost 8 a.m. in Chicago before the first busload of saved passengers reached Union Station. In this instance, complaining on Twitter was not only acceptable, but necessary:

Rail service is now screwed up across the country, including the Northeast Corridor. The LIRR, NJ Transit, and a few subway lines are all experiencing delays, to say nothing of the icy roads. 

It’s currently about 5 degrees in New York City, and while schools are open, the Office of Emergency Management is warning of “life-threatening wind chill … hypothermia, frostbite and other serious health problems.” (Do you have frostbite? Check this handy chart!) It’s getting better but barely: Tonight will max out at around 10 degrees.

As usual, life is worse in the Midwest, where entire cities are closed down, but worth noting for New Yorkers is that the weather system is moving toward us.

Update, 4 p.m.: Congratulations, New York City, on hitting double-digits! It’s about 13 degrees this afternoon, with Wedesday set to warm up to the mid-twenties.

Chicago still looks like this:

Photo: Scott Olson/2014 Getty Images
Photo: Scott Olson/2014 Getty Images

But AccuWeather has good news:

Reprieve is on the way from the frigid air and the Polar Vortex that has briefly brought life-threatening conditions to approximately 240 million people in the United States and southern Canada this week. 

Both will depart during the second half of this week, and a far-reaching January thaw will begin.

In the meantime, there’s not much to do but make your own fun:

Polar Vortex Traps Amtrak Riders for 13 Hours