What Is The Polar Vortex? - 47 ABC - Delmarva's Choice

What Is The Polar Vortex?

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DELMARVA - Record-breaking, bone-chilling temperatures across Delmarva.

"I've been living in Salisbury for eight years and I've never felt like this before," Trey Chandler said.

So what's to blame? It's called the Polar Vortex.

"A lot of people actually think it's kind of like a tornado or a hurricane, but it's not. It's just an upper-level low pressure system in the poles -- the North Pole. At times, a piece of that Polar Vortex can break off and come down to North America and really give us some cold air," WMDT Meteorologist Daniel Johnson said.

The last time a piece of the Polar Vortex broke off and came our way was back in the late 1990's.

"It's actually been around since the earth has existed. You can't see the polar vortex at all. It's just air. Some people are actually a little afraid of it, but it's nothing scary," Johnson said.

The vortex itself can't actually hurt you, but the cold air it brings with it can lead to frostbite and hypothermia.

"Frostbite is an actual freezing of the skin -- freezing of the tissues. Hypothermia is basically a drop in your core temperature --that's prolonged exposure," Dr. Walter Gianelle of Your Doc's In said.

If you start to feel a burning sensation, you've got frost nip --a precursor to frostbite.

The key to recognizing hypothermia?

"When you're shivering, that's the key sign. If you feel that you're shivering, that means your core temperature is dropping and your body is shaking to increase the temperature. It's causing that muscle activity. When you stop shivering, you're in trouble," Dr. Gianelle said.

High risk populations include the elderly, young children and people with diabetes-- if their sugars get too low, they can no longer generate heat.

But the best tip? Stay inside!

"I've never seen it this cold here. I haven't. When I lived in New York, yes, but not here," George Cephas of Princess Anne said.

The Polar Vortex is expected to pass within the next day.

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