Polar vortex leaves students unscathed, thanks in part to altruistic student
Even with temperatures plummeting to record lows for much of Southern Ontario during the first week of the winter semester, many students still braved the polar vortex to head downtown for a night out.
Nighttime temperatures on Jan. 6 were as low as -38 C with the windchill, but there do not appear to have been any weather-related injuries. With such extreme weather, frostbite can set in within minutes on exposed skin and, according to Dr. Marc Jeschke, director of the Sunnybrook burn unit, drinking alcohol will increase the risk of contracting frostbite as people are less likely to feel the cold on their extremities.
Luckily for many students trying to make their way home that night, Wesley Principi, a fourth-year Criminal Justice and Public Policy student, took an interest in getting them there safely.
At 1:52 a.m., Principi posted this message on the Overheard at Guelph Facebook page:
“Hate seeing my gryphons out freezing. Flag down the gold Kia Rio for a lift outta the cold! No charge just ask that you pay it forward! Welcome back! Happy frost week!”
Principi ended up making roughly eight trips to and from downtown, picking up groups of stranded and very cold partygoers.
“I was heading back from the gym after a late workout,” explained Principi, “and when I got back downtown, where my apartment is, I noticed the streets were flooded with students that were unable to get a cab after a night out.”
“Knowing how cold it was outside, I just immediately thought to myself, ‘That sucks!’ and remembered back to my first or second year…when someone randomly stopped and offered me a free ride on a cold night when I couldn’t get a cab and the bus services are unavailable.”
“People were extremely thankful to get out of the cold and into a warm car,” said Principi. He stressed that he wasn’t doing this for any personal gain. He only picked up groups of people who seemed desperate for a ride and that he could legally fit in his car.
“Basically I just wanted everyone to get home safe and warm up. I like seeing the reaction on people’s face when you just do them a random nice deed; people genuinely appreciate it. I was just asking that people, instead of paying me, buy a hot drink for someone behind them in line on campus the next morning,” said Principi.
“[That’s] just how I was raised; if you see someone out in the cold, you help them out. I’ve just read one too many stories about people passing out while walking home in the freezing cold. The rest of the story is generally fairly sad.”
And indeed such stories are all too common.
Alyssa Jo Lommel, a 19 year old from Duluth Minnesota, made headlines last month after she contracted a serious case of frostbite after being trapped outside her house following a night of drinking. After weeks in the intensive care unit she had the tips of her toes and the bottom of her heel amputated.
Weeks later, Karl Zabreth left a New Year’s Eve party in Georgetown, Ontario when he slipped on a patch of ice and cut his hands, which he’d thrown out to break his fall. The temperature was -20 C with the wind chill and frostbite began to set in within minutes. Both of his hands are still recovering and skin grafts may be necessary.
U of G students were fortunate to have avoided such icy perils.