'The dangers of this kind of weather are frightening'

Mike McCarthy and his wife Stephanie were wrapped up well against the cold last Thursday as temperatures dropped to -30 degrees Celsius
Mike McCarthy and his wife Stephanie were wrapped up well against the cold last Thursday as temperatures dropped to -30 degrees Celsius
Tralee’s Mike McCarthy pictured outside his home in Villa Park in Illinois as extreme cold gripped the United States last week

Fergus Dennehy

A Tralee man and his wife caught up in living through last week's 'polar vortex' which gripped the United States, have described to The Kerryman the reality of living through such extreme weather conditions.

Mike McCarthy, originally from Connolly Park, said that frostbite, hypothermia and death were some of the very real dangers they faced as they were advised not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary.

"Well for the spate of the weather warning, we were looking at a temperature of about -30 degrees Celsius with a windchill reaching to negative -50 degrees Celsius so it was dangerously cold," said Mike.

"Five minutes of direct skin exposure to the elements could have lead to frostbite. It was crazy."

"Those who needed to leave and use their car were advised to bring three days worth of food and water as well as blankets etc. It was so cold here that yesterday we fired a cup of boiling water into the air outside and immediately it turned to mist," he continued.

All schools in the are were closed and Mike said that he  was forced to work from home for a few days. Mike said that even though  the Mid West is well prepared for harsh winters, last week's 'polar vortex' was "different phenomenon."

"The weather was just crazy. It was so cold that your eye lashes would start to freeze up  with a few minutes. God's honest truth, it was very rough out there. The dangers are this kind of weather are frightening."

Utilising past knowledge of freezing temperatures here in Ireland to help them get through the cold, Mike said that he and Stephanie were well  prepared.

"I went back to the big freeze we had around 2009, 2010 in Ireland by ensuring their is a constant drip in the taps so that we don't suffer a burst pipe, all the piping here is copper."

"We were kept fairly warm inside thanks to the furnace. A turf fire would have been nicer, but still, the place was warm. We're not looking forward to the heating bill," Mike laughed. 

Thankfully though, like all good Kerry men, he was fully prepared with all the essentials. 

"Luckily we had the week's shopping done good and early so we were well set for grub and the essentials including Barry's Tea and of course, Kerrygold butter."

Kerryman

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