By Jane Bowden
It’s the kind of cold that taps its icy claws on your bedroom window before you’ve even unraveled from your blanket cocoon, the kind that dyes exposed skin crimson with a biting sting or the kind that transforms Hell into a frozen wasteland of forgotten springtime memories.
No, this isn’t what it feels like to live in Antarctica — it’s the polar vortex that plagued a third of the country last week and caused over 20 temperature-related deaths.
According to the National Weather Service, a polar vortex is a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding both of the Earth’s poles that regularly creates below-zero temperatures throughout the year. However, when those cold pockets of air stray farther than usual, it can affect areas as distant as Florida with abnormally frigid weather.
For the greater Trenton area, the polar vortex brought temperatures as low as 0 degrees and 10 mph winds after the National Weather Service issued a windchill advisory for the state.
On Jan. 30, Gov. Phil Murphy warned everyone to stay inside if possible.
“Take this seriously,” Murphy said on News 12. “This is a real polar vortex. If you can get inside, stay inside.”
However, for students at the College, single-digit temperatures and hours of snow flurries forced many to bundle in layers of thermal sweaters in order to survive their hike to class. Across the campus, Eskimo-like figures painted with pained expressions shuffled from building to building.
“I’m wearing, like, three layers of shirts, leggings under my jeans and two pairs of socks,” said Samantha Allen, a junior business major. “I feel like a marshmallow, but at least I’m kind of warm.”
Senior education major Sheena Kothary recalled her battle with the snow and gusts of wind as “that scene from ‘Spongebob’ where he has to deliver the pizza.”
“There were so many times when I thought I was going slip and fall in front of everyone,” Kothary said. “But luckily, my boots have a good traction, so I was able to make it to the Stud without any bumps or bruises.”
Even though they wore faux fur-lined parkas and knit hats, many students still complained that no amount of layers could prevent the cold wind from stinging their skin and seeping into their bones.
“It was so cold that my eyes started tearing up, and then my tears froze,” said Klara Bieniasz, a junior public health and international studies major.
As the polar vortex continued to cast waves of frigid temperatures until late Friday night, dozens of students decided to avoid the cold by remaining indoors to warm up with hot chocolate and fleece-lined sweatshirts.
Junior secondary math education major Ryan Thomas described his Friday night as “chill” by playing video games and watching Netflix’s “Stranger Things.”
Kothary hung out with her roommate Rujuta Patel, a junior biology major, for a “girls’ night in,” which consisted of eating loads of cheese-coated nachos and catching up on ABC’s “The Bachelor.”
“I love watching ‘The Bachelor,’ so it was really nice to stay inside and just chill for the night,” Kothary said as she heated up another batch of cheesy nachos.
“Yeah, I’d take eating nachos over walking outside in the cold any time,” Patel agreed. “I literally couldn’t feel my face this morning because it was so cold.”
Although the polar vortex caused record lows for the greater Trenton area, the bone-chilling temperatures quickly climbed back to the upper 40s this weekend as hazy skies parted, reminding students at the College that springtime is near.
“I can’t wait for spring just so I can start wearing sandals again and not have to worry about freezing my ass off,” Allen said.
“Fall and spring are my favorite seasons because it’s the perfect temperature where you’re not freezing but you’re also not dying of heat,” Kothary said excitedly. “At least spring break is only about a month away.”