Published 2/1/2014
S. Terry Canale, MD; Kay Daugherty

It’s So Cold…

How do you know it’s really, really cold? When Mobile, Ala., becomes “Snow-mobile,” Chicago becomes “Chiberia” because it was colder there than in Siberia, and Hot-lanta isn’t. This winter, we learned what a “polar vortex” is and found out that winter storms have names (the last three have been Janus, Kronus, and Leon).

With massive artic cold fronts hitting most of the United States, bringing below-freezing temperatures and snow to areas unaccustomed to them, we’ve all added a new phrase to our everyday conversation: “Just how cold is it, anyway?” We found out that once it’s in the single digits, it really doesn’t make much difference any more how many degrees below zero it gets!

In January, it was cold and snowy enough to prompt closing of the AAOS and Orthopaedic Research and Education Foundation (OREF) offices in Rosemont, in addition to schools and businesses across Chicago; to cause nearly 4,000 flights to be cancelled and another 3,000 delayed; to put Atlanta under a Civil Emergency protocol; to bring about declarations of a state of emergency in Mississippi, Louisiana, and South Carolina; and even to postpone Ray Nagin’s trial in New Orleans.

Those headlines made us wonder how AAOS Now readers were coping with the weather in their hometowns. We asked the members of the AAOS editorial board and the OREF board of directors to let us know how cold it is where they are.

The following dispatches from AAOS Now editorial board member Frank B. Kelly, MD, chronicled the bad weather in Macon, Ga.:

Monday, Jan. 27, 4:58 pm
Winter Storm Warning for Macon, expecting the most snow in 25 years (probably up to 2 inches). Schools already closed in anticipation, and the grocery stores are rapidly selling out of bread and milk. We’re hunkering down.

Monday, Jan. 27, 7:46 pm
We’ve already experienced a drop in the temperature from a high of 61 earlier today to a current temperature in the low 50s. With a 5-mile-an-hour wind off the Ocmulgee River, wind chills now are approaching the high 40s. If we still have connections with the outside world tomorrow, I’ll try to provide an update.

Tuesday, Jan. 28, 12:22 pm
I’m closing the office because of the weather (for the first time in 36 years) and will re-open Thursday. It’s already down to 38 degrees, with light drizzle. Still expecting snow flurries later, may have up to a half-inch accumulation. Hope I can make the 8-minute trip home.

Wednesday, Jan. 29, 10:40 am
Happy to report that we survived the “storm of the decade”...almost 3 inches of snow in Macon and the city is shut down. After scraping ice and snow from my truck this morning, I have much greater sympathy for my Northern friends who do this all the time!

Frank wasn’t the only Southerner suffering. John M. Purvis, MD, also a member of the AAOS Now editorial board, sent this memo from the medical center in Jackson, Miss., where total ice accumulations of up to one third of an inch were expected early Wednesday, with total sleet and snow accumulations of 1 to 3 inches:

Severe Weather Update, 1 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014
Road conditions are poorer than forecast in and around Jackson, with the worst conditions farther south.

Students should plan to return home as early as feasible this afternoon but definitely before sunset.

Supervisors are instructed to begin sending employees home beginning now, with priority for those who may encounter the most hazardous road conditions depending on where they live.

Our hospitals are full and having difficulty discharging patients to areas south of us; provisions are being made to accommodate staff overnight.

Even hardy Northerners, more accustomed to the cold, were sympathetic. OREF board member James G. Borovsky wrote: “We’ve decided to hold a prayer vigil for you poor souls in the frigid South. Since the AAOS building is closed today (Monday, Jan. 6), we will hold our prayer session in the parking lot and, since it is a little chilly up here, some of us may even wear coats.” At the time, the wind chill was –35 degrees in Chicago.

Others responded more succinctly to the query, “How cold is it?” Communications Cabinet Chair Michael F. Schafer, MD, of Chicago, responded, “It’s so cold Chicken Little is warning of ice falling off buildings instead of the sky falling.”

“It’s so cold in New Jersey,” wrote AAOS Now editorial board member Stuart J. Fischer, MD, “the price of a last row, upper deck ticket for the Super Bowl dropped below $1,500. It’s so cold that people are wondering why they don’t move the Super Bowl game to Green Bay.”

In Glenview, Ill., AAOS Now editorial board member Leon S. Benson, MD, said, “It’s so cold, my dogs let me out this morning. When my dogs finally went out, I found a yellow ice sculpture in the dog run.”

According to AAOS Now editorial board member Douglas W. Lundy, MD, of Marietta, Ga., “It’s so cold that the moonshiners have started making vodka.” And in Atlanta, AAOS Now editorial board member Letha Y. Griffin, MD, noted that “it’s so cold and snowy, the ants are moving faster than the cars.

In our home town of Memphis, it’s so cold that Elvis didn’t leave the building.

And while most of the country shivered, some of our colleagues in warmer climates couldn’t help but rub it in! Council on Advocacy Chair Thomas C. Barber, MD, of Oakland, Calif., reported, “Yesterday it was 75 and sunny. The ski resorts are struggling to keep any runs open, and the usual January crush of ski injuries is nonexistent. Can we have some of your cold and snow in Northern California?”

Council on Research and Quality Chair Kevin J. Bozic, MD, MBA, of San Francisco, agreed: “It’s 73 degrees and sunny here. Come on out and join us for a round of golf!”

Warm up at Annual Meeting!
John Steinbeck wrote in Travels With Charley, “Summer warmth is no good without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” So whatever your situation and however cold it is where you are, just remember that mid-March in New Orleans will be especially sweet! As you shiver in the snow and cold now, make plans to join us for the 2014 AAOS meeting and enjoy the weather!

S. Terry Canale, MD, is editor-in-chief of AAOS Now. He can be reached at aaoscomm@aaos.org

Kay Daugherty, BS, is the medical editor for the Campbell Foundation.