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Coping with the polar vortex

Polar Vortex over Maine January 21, 1985.
Polar Vortex over Maine January 21, 1985.
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

By now everyone is familiar with the phrase “polar vortex,” cause of the bone chilling cold keeping most of the nation in subzero territory. However, for those of you who don’t really know what it is, a polar vortex is basically a “cyclone” that normally stays over the polar regions (both north and south). And while it can sometimes dip down into northeastern Canada, it is unusual for it to venture this far south. This one actually came into action in Siberia before pushing across Canada, and excelerated over the Great Lakes before plunging down on the rest of us.

Basically, the best thing to do on days like today, where temperatures are not expected to go above 13°F in most areas along the northeast, and where Atlanta is actually colder today than Anchorage, AK, etc, is to remain indoors. However, if you must go out, make sure to avoid prolonged exposure to the cold and wind and be wary about developing hypothermia and frost bite, by wearing several layers of clothing, wear a hat, and keeping extremities such as fingers, ears and noses covered.

Signs of hypothermia include becoming disoriented, hallucinating, and a lack of shivering when you should be. Frostbite symptoms include tingling and numbness. If you have frostbite, never put the area in hot water, but begin warming it up slowly.

Other tips for keeping warm are to eat high protein foods and drink warm liquids. Stay away from alcoholic beverages, however, as they cause blood vessels to expand and rise to the surface of the skin, which can make you even colder.