Niagara Falls Partially Freezes Amid Polar Vortex

February 1, 2019 Updated: February 1, 2019

Amid the “polar vortex” that hit the United States this week, Niagara Falls has become a frozen spectacle.

The famed waterfalls, which are located on the U.S.-Canada border, partially froze over amid sub-zero Fahrenheit temperatures on Jan. 31.

In the photos, steam is seen rising from the river because the water temperature is warmer than the frigid air.

The polar vortex has turned Niagara Falls into a frozen spectacle (The Associated Press)

According to Niagara Falls USA, when the waterfalls freeze, it “is the work of prolonged frigid temperatures combined with some sneaky science.”

“Prior to 1964, ice could block the flow of water further up the river, reducing the volume of water on the US side of the Falls to the point of freezing. This happened five times before steel ice-booms were added to prevent large collections of ice,” says the website.

It adds: “More recently, the frozen effect you’ve seen is similar to any other river or lake that freezes. Surface water and mist in the air turns to ice, but there is still plenty of water flowing.”

“The volume of water that makes up Niagara Falls combined with the constant movement of the river makes a total freeze nearly impossible.”

When freezing events unfold, the ice can be 40 feet thick, says the website.

Meanwhile, it’s assuredly not safe to walk across the ice.

“Ice over a rapidly moving body of water like you’ll find at the base of the Falls is very unsafe. Almost a century ago, people were allowed to walk on the ice bridge and it became a regular part of the attraction in winter, however that changed when three lives were lost due to breakage in the ice,” the website says.

Frigid Weather Eases

Meanwhile, the frigid weather that paralyzed a large swath of the United States this week and caused at least 21 deaths began moderating on Friday as an Arctic air mass pulled away, setting the stage for a warmer weekend in the Midwest and the Northeast.

Temperatures from southern New England to the Upper Midwest should reach the mid-40s to low 50s Fahrenheit through the weekend and Monday, forecasters said, after a record-breaking cold snap that stopped mail deliveries in some parts of the Midwest and shuttered schools and businesses.

Meteorologists linked the spell of brutal cold to the so-called polar vortex, a cap of icy air that usually swirls over the North Pole, Reuters reported.

student dies in polar vortex
Drifting snow obscures a road near Mount Joy in Lancaster County, Pa., on Jan. 30, 2019. A bitter deep freeze is moving into the Northeast from the Midwest, sending temperatures plummeting and making road conditions dangerous. (Jacqueline Larma/AP Photo)

Changing air currents caused it to slip down through Canada and into the U.S. Midwest this week.

Bryan Jackson, a National Weather Service meteorologist, said the core of the vortex was pulling north into eastern Canada, though residual icy air was still pushing over to the U.S. Northeast.

“That cold air that was over the Great Lakes, over the Midwest, has shifted off. Now the high pressure is over Pennsylvania and New York,” Jackson said in a phone interview.

“As it moves east, it’ll bring in air from the south and we do expect it to warm up over the weekend.”

A firefighter walks past an ice-encrusted home after an early morning house fire in St. Paul, Minn. on Jan. 30, 2019. (Jean Pieri/Pioneer Press via AP)

Reuters contributed to this report.

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