It’s so cold … polar bears won’t go outside in Chicago

Brutal cold settled over much of the nation this week, sparing the West but leaving people in cities from Nashville to New York scrambling to avoid heading outside.

Record lows were set in places like Atlanta, where 6 degrees is a foreign concept to residents.

At least four people have died while shoveling snow, and thousands were without power Tuesday as temperatures in parts of the nation were lower than those in Antarctica and Siberia.

Across the nation, people used the hashtag #PolarVortex on Twitter to share their experiences. And the weather has so far had some unexpected side effects:

It’s so cold in Chicago a polar bear won’t even go outside

Lincoln Park Zoo’s polar bear, Anana, would be used to the below-zero weather if she lived in the wild — but she’s lacking the thick layer of fat that comes from eating things like seals and whale carcasses.

Anana is staying inside in a 40- to 50-degree climate until the city warms back up.

The cold actually caused an escaped prisoner to change his mind

An escaped Kentucky prisoner was so cold this weekend that he walked into a motel and asked the clerk to call police.

Robert Vick, 42, would have been dressed in prison-issued khaki pants, a shirt and jacket when he escaped, according to the Associated Press. He apparently told the clerk he wanted to escape the arctic air.

500 passengers spent the night on a stranded train

500 people headed to Chicago from Los Angeles, San Francisco and Quincy, Ill., ended up spending the night on an Amtrak train after drifting snow in Illinois halted the train’s progress.

An Amtrak spokeswoman told AP the passengers would reach Chicago later Tuesday.

A girl got her tongue stuck to a flag pole

A New Hampshire girl who apparently has never seen A Christmas Story was wondering what would happen if she licked a flag pole — so she tried it.

The 12-year-old ended up stuck to the flag pole until her dad, who was snow plowing at the end of the driveway, looked up and noticed her waving her arms, according to KCTV.

She was stuck to the pole for a full 15 minutes before warm water freed her, but is going to be OK.

Contact Stephanie Grimes at Find her on Twitter: @steph_grimes