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How cold is it? 6 crazy signs it's freezing outside

Jan. 6, 2014 at 3:17 PM ET

A man is silhouetted against the arctic sea smoke rising off Lake Michigan in Chicago, Illinois January 6, 2014. A blast of Arctic air gripped the mid...
JIM YOUNG / Reuters
A man is silhouetted against the arctic sea smoke rising off Lake Michigan in Chicago on Monday.

Jack Frost nipping at your nose? For major swaths of the country, it probably feels like he’s chomped it off, thanks to an extreme and dangerous weather system. More than two dozen states were under severe wind chill warning or watches Monday because of a weather phenomenon known as a polar vortex — an arctic cyclone that normally sits near the North Pole but has pushed unusually far south.

In fact, it's so cold that...

1. Your boiling water actually can turn into snow outside. 

That's what Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist in Viroqua, Wisc., proved on Monday. He threw a pot of boiling water into his back yard and watched it turn into a cloud of misty fluff. At the time, the temperature was 21 below zero with a wind chill factor of negative 51, he said in the YouTube video he captured of the experiment. “Very interesting,” he said afterward.

Same goes for Canadian Chris Gillett, who fired boiling water from a water gun in Northern Ontario last week to similar results:

2. It's colder than Mars. 

Smithsonian Magazine noted that it's colder in some parts of the country than it is on the surface of the planet 78 million miles further from the sun than Earth.

3. Steam is rising off Lake Michigan. 

In Chicago, where residents referred to the storm as “Chi-Beria,” the high forecast for Monday was only -11, the lowest high temperature in the city’s history. The air was so cold that steam rose from the comparatively warm waters of Lake Michigan.

4. Minnesota shut down its winter fun. 

It was so cold in the notoriously frosty state, which for the first time in 17 years called off school Monday, that all of its ski resorts, sledding hills and ice rinks also were shut down.

5. Tailgaters had to warm up their beer. 

The deep freeze didn't stop hearty Wisconsin football fans from enjoying a brew Sunday — even if they had to grill the beer.

6. You'll shoot your eye out! Or at least, stick your tongue to metal. 

In New Hampshire, the cold left a 12-year-old girl tongue tied — literally — over the weekend.

Maddie Gilmartin told WMUR said she spontaneously wanted to see “what would happen if I stuck my tongue to a flag pole. At the moment, I was like, 'oh, it will come right off.'"

It didn’t, as anyone who has seen a certain holiday classic movie knows.

Maddie was stuck to the flag pole for about 15 minutes until her parents freed her by using some warm water.

For the record, she said she has never seen "A Christmas Story."


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