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Polar Vortex: What Is It?

Author: ServiceMaster Restore

With the winter weather seemingly going away, many homeowners are looking forward to the warmer weather that spring brings. But a weather event involving a polar vortex could mean harsh winter weather with snow, freezing rain, and strong winds. As you prepare for this unique winter weather event, here is some information that you should keep in mind as you prepare for the effects of an expanding polar vortex across the United States.


A polar vortex is a large area of low pressure that is found in the Northern and Southern polar regions. This polar vortex circles the globe year-round, encompassing cold air in the North and South poles. The counterclockwise flow of cold air is contained by a jet stream of air that works as a barrier between the cold air and the warmer air down south.


A polar vortex expansion happens when the low-pressure system is disrupted by a weather event. The jet stream of wind that normally keeps cold air north does not have enough force to maintain the same path, causing the high-pressure systems to push the cold air south. The lobes that are formed because of this movement then stretch and move south, causing Arctic air to spill and cause lower temperatures in the areas affected.

It’s worth noting that polar vortexes happen around every other year and are not new. It’s always present, weakening in summer and strengthening in winter. Polar vortexes commonly happen once every other year.


The strength of the polar vortex varies depending on a variety of factors, with abnormal cold temperatures potentially lasting a week, or more than a month. For example, the polar vortex event in February 2021 by Winter Storm Uri lasted ten days for most, but the impact was felt for several weeks in certain areas, such as Texas and Oklahoma. These lasting impacts on the winter weather patterns can continue to affect weather for several weeks.


These damaging winds caused by the Arctic weather are strong enough to potentially cause severe damage to your home. Your roof may suffer winter weather damage as a result of the strong, cold winds, providing an easy entrance for snow or water to enter and cause water damage to your home or business. Your water pipes may also freeze, leading to your pipes to burst and extensive water damage to affect your property. Burst pipes were among the leading causes of damage caused by Winter Storm Uri in February 2021, with thousands of Texas homes having extensive water damage as a result.

While the immediate damages of the cold weather are worth noting, there are also long-term damages that could happen. Snow or ice forming in your roof could lead to ice dams that can lead to damage to your roof that can then lead to water leaks in your home. Water damage that goes unaddressed in your attic or walls could lead to mold, which may require mold removal to address.


If you need restoration help for home or business damage caused by the winter weather, such as broken pipes or other winter weather damage to your property, contact the restoration professionals at ServiceMaster Restore. Our network of local restoration professionals are here to ensure your home is safe during these abnormally cold temperatures while also helping you recover in case your property is impacted by water damage

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