ELKHART — If you tune into WNDU for weather updates this week in anticipation of another big arctic chill — the third of the season — don’t expect Mike Hoffman to use the term "polar vortex."
Granted, the term is real and has been around for a long time, but the lead meteorologist at NBC’s South Bend affiliate said he thinks the national media is using the term just to generate excitement.
“I feel like the national media has made it sound like something extraordinary and it isn’t,” Hoffman said. “We saw this many times in the '70s and early '80s.”
“It sounds like something new and unseen, but it’s not,” he said.
Despite all those weather graphics seen lately depicting huge colorful blotches stretching down over much of the Great Lakes, the polar vortex does not stretch that far, Hoffman said.
It usually stays much closer to the arctic circle and doesn’t dip much further south than an area far north of the Great Lakes, he said.
The term hasn’t been entirely banned at the station, but it’s a pet peeve for Hoffman, who said he prefers the terms, arctic express or Siberian express.
Regardless of what people call it, Hoffman predicts the upcoming cold stretch arriving Tuesday night, Feb. 25, will likely be a record-setter.
The upcoming arctic air will add on to what has already been an exceedingly cold winter season that has seen parts of Elkhart County dip below zero at least 20 times over the course of the winter.
Hoffman says Friday’s record low temperature will be broken if temps fall below 2 degrees in South Bend. The better chance of breaking records, he said, will come earlier in the week and pertains to record cold high temps. That could happen Tuesday when South Bend’s coldest high on record is 12. Wednesday is 14 and Thursday is 12.
While the frigid air returns, it won’t be anything close to the cold spell seen in January when temps fell to around minus-14, he said.
At this point in the season, Hoffman said, it can’t get that cold because it is too late in the season.
Despite a slight chance of light snow Tuesday and Wednesday, there is little chance of any precipitation this week.
According to the National Weather Service forecast — which varies from Hoffman’s — highs and lows for the remaining week, respectively are 20 and 2 on Tuesday; 10 and 2 on Wednesday; 14 and minus 3 on Thursday; 16 and 3 on Friday and 14 and minus-1 on Saturday.