A polar vortex is hitting Richmond right now, bringing with it sub-zero wind chills and dangerously cold conditions. Just walk outside and you can tell....these temperatures are much colder than our normal January winter's here in Richmond!

What exactly is a polar vortex, and why does it bring such crazy cold temperatures?

A polar vortex is a determined, large cyclone located near either the North or South Pole, and contained in the middle/upper troposphere and the stratosphere. Polar Vortex's can span over 1000 miles. Within the diameter of a polar vortex in the Northern Hemisphere, the wind circulates counter clockwise. These cold, low pressure zones tend to strengthen in the summer and winter, which is part of what we are experiencing right now in Richmond.

See an image of a polar vortex.

 Generally, they are contained by a jet stream, but occasionally they detach (as is the case now with this vortex detaching over the north pole), and thereby bring a mass dense of cold air south. If the jet stream shifts just enough, in combination with other factors, the polar vortex can shift south and essentially sit in place. Often times, a polar vortex will bring not only surges of freezing temperature, but also (and more dangerously) huge gusts of wind. In such extreme situations, you must protect yourself! Exposed flesh in sub zero polar vortex temperatures can freeze in five minutes. Pipes can freeze. Cars wont start.

Tips for staying warm during a polar vortex

1: Layer Up!  If you need to go outside, try layering up with thin layers  building into thicker layers. Start with some thermal underwear, long johns, whatever. Get some of those hand warmers.  Be sure to wear something warm on your head, as you lose over 90% of your body heat out of your head.  One of those crazy beanies with the ear flaps might look silly to you, but might just be the perfect solution for sub zero temperatures. Lets face it...nobody is looking at you when its this cold anyway. 

2: Check your car battery. Often times car batteries older than three years old won't start back up from a jump start after exposure to sub-zero temperatures. If you car battery is more than three years old...maybe its time for a new one! You can take your battery to any AutoZone or local dealer to have it checked, usually for free.

3: Eat some warm liquids.  Its amazing how much a warm bowl of chicken noodle soup or a cup of hot chocolate can revitalize you on a cold night.  Be sure you have plenty of hot liquids at home, and don't hesitate to break out the hot chocolate and marsh mellows. 

4: Have your heat pump serviced regularly.  Naturally, we can't stress this enough! By having your heat pump or boiler serviced properly before the start of the cold season each year, you will greatly diminish the chances that you lose heat during extreme temperatures.  Extreme temperatures put extreme stress on your heating system, and if you haven't had it cleaned, flushed or checked, you are much more likely to run into a breakdown.  If you have home heating oil, be sure to stock up before the next artic blast hits Richmond!  Learn more about home heating oil from Woodfin. 

If you do happen to lose heat or need a heating oil delivery, call us ASAP at (804) 730-5000 or contact us online for immediate service.  We are all about serving our local community, but please understand that if you lose heat...odds are a bunch of homeowners through Richmond also need service! We will do all we can to get out to you immediately, to make sure we can crank that heat back on as quickly as possible. 

Stay safe and warm....and stay indoors!

By Kelly Williams