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New York Weather: Polar Vortex Plunges Temperatures Across Tri-State Area

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Tri-State area residents woke up to extreme cold Thursday, with highs feeling like they were well below zero thanks to whipping winds.

Experts urged people to bundle up since exposed skin could lead to hypothermia or frostbite.

Because of the bone-chilling temperatures, a number of schools are delayed or closed. New York City public schools, however, stayed open.

MORE: Winter Survival Guide | Weather Center | School Closings

The NYPD's mounted unit even said nay, opting to stay inside due to avoid the cold.

The New York Blood Center declared a blood emergency, with donated blood reserves dropping to critical lows as temperatures dropped.

"Each winter storm further reduces our region's blood supply," said Andrea Cefarelli, Senior Executive Director Donor Recruitment and Marketing at New York Blood Center. "With blood levels at critical lows, we are urging everyone who can to take one hour to donate one unit to save one life in the coming weeks."

To learn how to donate, click here.

Waking up with temperatures in the single digits had many people wanting to stay bundled in bed. Since it's a weekday, that's not an option for a lot of people.

CBS2's Jenna DeAngelis spent some time with commuters at the Mineola LIRR station, among other places. Many people were seeking shelter inside and then running out to hop on the train, trying to stay as warm as possible for as long as possible.

From icicles on cars to icy spots in parking lots, it was easy to see how cold it is.

What's even worse is how it feels, DeAngelis reported.

"I think it's kind of crazy. Ridiculous. Freezing. They say it's colder than Antartica right now... not feeling to good about it," said Roosevelt resident Anthony Auguste.

In the Midwest, it was literally colder than the South Pole on Thursday.

back home, people braved the bitter temperatures, bundled up on train platforms. Christopher Grant's coat is only one part of how he copes with the cold commute.

"Think about a warmer climate, that's what keeps you warm," he said.

"Layers of clothes are necessary. I have gloves that are warm, but not warm enough," said Brian Bleckwenn of Franklin Square.

Fortunately for Long Island Rail Road riders, its waiting rooms will be open around the clock through Saturday. The LIRR put up several warnings to people to be cautious on station staircases and platforms.

"I think it's really nice that they kept the waiting rooms open around the clock for people. I think it's really important. I think you get a lot of unhappy people if that wasn't the case," said Alex Blatt of Sea Cliff.

"If this wasn't open, I wouldn't be here," said Mineola resident Stephen Freitas.

Doctors worry about skin exposure, even while commuting because you can experience hypothermia or frostbite within minutes.

Watch: Doctor Shares Cold Weather Safety Tips 

"Your extremities are more susceptible to the cold so particularly nose, ears, fingers, toes are the areas we worry about the most," said Dr. Peter Shearer, chief medical officer for Mount Sinai, Brooklyn. "Mittens may be more helpful than gloves because they actually wrap your whole hand."

Shawn Golden, who worked a job outdoors, says he layers his body and then puts his mind in a positive place.

"Sun's out. It's a beauty today," said Shawn Golden of North Babylon. "It's February already, we're headed to March, and next week it's supposed to be 55 degrees."

There are people that enjoy the cold, but it's dangerous, so it's important if you spend time outside to take breaks inside.

If you commute, keep an eye on schedules. The LIRR is experiencing some maintenance issues today, though it isn't clear if it is weather related.

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