Weather Forecast


Polar vortex no match for Northlanders

Judith Liebaert

“Look out the window at the snow

Never such a blizzard before

Baby you’d freeze out there

It’s up to your knees out there

Think of my life long sorrow

If you got pneumonia and died

Baby it’s cold outside.”

— Frank Loesser

The lyrics for the popular winter romance song may not have been specifically written for either of our fair twinned cities at the head of Lake Superior, like Merv Griffin’s Christmas City song, but they certainly do fit.

Merv might have waxed nostalgic about hastening to the Christmas City, but our weather isn’t exactly a selling point this time of year. Just ask a couple of the entertainment mogul’s cohorts, Patty Duke and her son Mackenzie Astin, who both did end up with pneumonia while filming movies on location in Duluth.

Of course, hailing from the Hollywood Hills those two are somewhat hothouse flowers – it’s understandable they would succumb to our brand of winter. Not just anybody has the constitution for surviving and thriving in temperatures that freeze your breath mid-sentence; not to mention your lungs, nose, hands, feet, eyeballs.

It’s been a few years now since even we have had such a deeply frozen cold blast; nearly twenty years, in fact, since it has been this cold for this long. Now, we even have a new name for it — Polar Vortex.

Not only have we broken records this winter season for one of the coldest Decembers, it was also up there with the snowiest — and January isn’t turning out much better. No worries, though, we’re a tough bunch. And did I mention, stubborn?

We chuckle at those to our east who are simply horrified by temperatures with wind chills that will freeze your eyelashes to your eyebrows before you can blink. Heck, we just started zipping our jackets and actually wearing our gloves instead of just stuffing them in our pockets in case we need them. We’re still not wearing hats unless we actually have to walk more than a few blocks.

Last week as I was leaving a building downtown, I encountered a man coming in, his head down, pushing against the brutal wind. He looked up as we both entered the vestibule between warm indoor comfort and frigid outdoor assault.

“I sure am glad we’re done with that stifling heat and humidity we had in August,” he said with a wide grin.

While schools and business are closing everywhere, we’re throwing on an extra layer or two of clothing and celebrating the impromptu holiday with some outdoor recreation.

We head out to the back yard to freeze snow in buckets, bread pans and plastic shoe boxes to make igloos and ice castles. Those more artistically inspired use food coloring to make candy colored ice blocks that glow like stained glass when lit from inside. The real showoffs are carving relief friezes into their ice walls.

While we’re being cautioned to make sure our pets are inside and not exposed to the dangerous temperatures, we’re out at the ice shack doing a little cold water angling.

Professional and amateur photographers alike are scrambling to Lake Superior beaches to see who can capture the most stunning sunrise or sunset with reflections glinting off the ice flows pushing up the shores. They’re capturing lighthouses, buoys and tree bones, draped in frozen folds of ice.

Maybe you’re a little less stalwart and the 20’s and 30’s below zero do keep you cooped up inside. I’ll bet that as soon as it hits a minus 15 degrees or warmer, you can’t wait to get outside for some fresh air. If the sun happens to be shining, it’s almost a tropical vacation.

Now unzip your jacket, toss your hat and gloves in the air and repeat after me — “It might be cold outside, but we’re from the north, dag-nab-it, and we can take it.”

Judith Liebaert was raised in Superior and now lives in rural Douglas County. She blogs on-line as the Mad Goddess™. Send your comments or story ideas to