You can define polar vortex as an area of low pressure - a mass of swirling cold air once parked over the Arctic that breaks away and migrates down across the Midwest, freezing us solid.
Or you can define polar vortex as a high-pressure system that can bring out the best in people. That's just what happened last week when temperatures neared 30 below zero and the wind chill factor was pushing 60 below.
• School districts closed. Superintendents didn't want to risk children suffering frostbite.
• Some businesses closed early. They knew few customers would be out and about beyond daylight hours, and the businesses made their staff's safety a priority.
• A few government offices took similar steps, keeping mail carriers, refuse collectors and others off the roads.
Some people had to work because the nature of their jobs requires it. The list includes:
• Law enforcement, first responders and firefighters were there when a handful of people needed them.
• Power line technicians made certain that natural gas and electricity kept flowing so people stayed warm.
• Furnace repair workers responded in all conditions.
• From gas stations to supermarkets, employees kept the basics accessible.
• Local community centers opened their doors to provide places for all ages to get outside the house.
• Nonprofits made certain that essentials were offered to those in most need.
• And citizens generally didn't venture far or for long if they didn't have to do so; they did what they could to avoid creating situations that might make more work for those out in the field.
There's nothing really new about a polar vortex - remember we had notable cold spells in 1977, 1982, 1985, 1989 and 2014, to name a few - but this one was especially extreme. The worst in generation? Maybe. Then again, maybe not. It's all how you define it.
The hearty Midwestern resolve never fails to warm the heart, which is a good thing since there's more winter ahead.