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Schools were closed statewide Monday and local districts delayed school by two hours Tuesday morning due to extreme cold.

Area to see relief from deep freeze

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BY Staff reporters

FORUM NEWS SERVICE

Meteorologists say that what they call a “polar vortex,” and the rest of us call bitterly cold weather, is beginning to ease up in the Upper Midwest.

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That means the region may reach temperatures Alaskans have been enjoying.

“The good news is Monday is the worst day,” Todd Heitkamp of the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, S.D., said. “The rest of the week will still be cold with the wind chill still being between minus 20 and 30 ... but by Friday we should be somewhere up around the freezing mark.”

Nearly 20 states endured below-zero wind chill temperatures Monday, but the misery index was worst in the Upper Midwest.

Park Rapids reached 26 below zero with wind chills reaching negative 50 degrees.

Park Rapids, Nevis and Menahga delayed school by two hours on Tuesday morning.

Among the coldest cities was extreme northeastern Minnesota’s Grand Marais, which at 9 a.m. was 31 below zero with a minus 61 wind chill. In Alexandria, the wind chill still was 56 below at mid-day.

In contrast, the temperature in Nome, Alaska, Monday topped 30 degrees above zero.

On the good-news side Monday, temperatures did not set record lows (which are about 60 below in North Dakota and Minnesota).

But bad news was much more common.

Some roads were a problem. “Not a good day to slide into the ditch,” Kevin Gutknecht of the Minnesota Department of Transportation said in urging people to be careful of black ice that often forms when it is so cold.

Throughout the Upper Midwest, state transportation authorities reported a variety of road conditions, ranging from clear to snow and ice covered.

Thousands of residents scattered throughout the region lost power for a time Monday.

Wadena County Sheriff Mike Carr urged everyone to make sure they had extra food and water on hand to brace for the cold and discouraged traveling.

“This cold is wreaking havoc on vehicles,” Matt Strommer of A&A Towing in Alexandria said.

Strommer put on three layers of clothing to prepare for Monday’s cold and his co-worker, Tony Wendlandt, said he put on six layers.

“When it’s this cold, it’s so bad that I don’t even know what to say about it,” Strommer added.

Many businesses allowed, or even encouraged, workers to stay home Monday.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton Monday decided to leave the decision about closing schools on Tuesday to local officials. On Friday, he ordered public schools statewide to close Monday.

“Tomorrow morning’s temperatures are forecasted to be in the double digits below zero again, with continued wind chill advisories for the entire state until afternoon,” Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius wrote to school leaders across the state Monday.

Some area cities came close to setting a record cold temperature Monday.

“That’s a record you don’t want to break,” Bill Abeling of the National Weather Service said.

It can be more than a chilling experience, it can be a health hazard.

“At these temperatures, exposed skin can freeze within minutes,” said Philip Schumacher, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sioux Falls. “Your life can be in danger in less than an hour should you be outside without adequate clothing.”

The cold snap attracted international attention.

Chris Muller of the Beltrami County Emergency Management office was interviewed by the Australian National News in Sydney about what temperatures felt like in Bemidji on Monday.

“We are bundled up, but we are managing,” Muller told the Aussies, who were dealing with 70 degree temperatures. “We just take it easy and check on our neighbors, especially the elderly.”

Better Upper Midwest weather, although not as good as in Australia, was forecast for later this week, for a while at least.

“There’s always another cold snap out there,” Abeling said. “There is a big mass of Arctic air that could descend upon us about the middle of the month.”

Here is the forecast for Park Rapids for the rest of the week, according to the National Weather Service.

Wednesday: Mostly sunny with highs zero to 5 below.

Wednesday night: Partly cloudy with lows 10 to 15 below.

Thursday: Mostly cloudy with highs 10 to 15.

Thursday night: Partly cloudy with lows 5 to 10.

Friday: Partly sunny with highs in the mid-20s.

Friday night: Partly cloudy with lows 10 to 15.

Saturday: Partly sunny with highs 25 to 30.

Saturday night: Partly cloudy with lows 15 to 20.

Sunday: Partly sunny with slight chance of light snow and highs 25 to 30.

Don Davis of Forum News Service and other Forum Communications Co. properties contributed to this report.

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