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Minnesota Governor leaves school closing decision to local officials as Midwest shivers; Park Rapids is two hours late Tuesday

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Park Rapids, Menahga and Nevis schools announced they will start two hours late Tuesday, Jan. 7.

Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday decided to leave the decision about closing schools on Tuesday to local officials as the Upper Midwest fought bitterly cold weather today, with Tuesday warming in some places but still remaining frigid.

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Dayton took the rare step Friday of announcing that public schools statewide would be closed today.

"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 morning. "Gov. Dayton is leaving the decision about school cancellations for Tuesday to individual school districts."

Lows of about 20 below were common across the Upper Midwest today.

“This is something that hasn’t happened for quite a while,” said Philip Schumacher, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, S.D.

“At these temperatures, exposed skin can freeze within minutes,” Schumacher said. “Your life can be in danger in less than an hour should you be outside without adequate clothing.”

That is why Minnesota's governor said on Friday that he was closing schools today.

“When the governor woke up this morning at 5 a.m. and saw the temperature was 22 below in the (Twin Cities) metro, 24 below in Rochester and 27 below in International Falls, he knew he had absolutely made the right decision," Dayton spokesman Matt Swenson said.

Schools around the region canceled classes today.

The entire region should feel better later in the week.

“There is a definite moderation of temperatures by Tuesday with highs near zero,” said Bill Abeling, with the National Weather Service based in Bismarck, N.D. “By the weekend we should see temps into the 20s.”

Those moderate temperatures are likely to last about a week, he said.

“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.”

High temperatures today will only make a small recovery from lows last night and will be close to all-time cold records in many locations.

This is accompanied by brisk northwest winds. The combination of the cold and wind will produce wind chills of 40 to 60 below through Tuesday morning, with the coldest wind chills occurring today.

Duluth today had its coldest morning of the winter so far, hitting 28 degrees below zero at the airport, but for much of northern Minnesota it was just another nasty cold morning in what has been an annoyingly cold winter.

Temperatures dipped as cold as 40 below at Brimson and 37 below at Embarrass, according to the National Weather Service in Duluth. This morning’s temperatures were not as cold as last week in the Northland when temperatures hit 47 degrees below zero in some of the traditionally colder locales.

“I told Embarrass to call back and do better,” Kevin Huyck, an assistant forecaster at the National Weather Service in Duluth, joked about the state’s usually coldest town.

It was 31 below with a 61 below wind chill at 9 a.m. at the Devils Track Airport near Grand Marais.

“The wind chill will remain very cold into Tuesday,” Huyck said. “But we’re going to see a gradual warm-up the rest of the week. By Thursday we’re going to see people in shorts and flip flops down" by Lake Superior” with a high temperature expected in the teens -- above zero, with upper 20s by the weekend.

Warmer weather is approaching from the west.

The warmer weather is not coming soon enough for some. North Dakota, for instance, canceled today's planned kickoff of its year-long 125th anniversary of statehood celebration. Officials say the event will be rescheduled.

Events throughout the Upper Midwest were canceled or postponed.

Some businesses allowed, or even encouraged, workers to stay home today.

The forecast for Park Rapids the rest of the week is:

Rest of today: Partly sunny. Highs 15 to 20 below. Northwest winds 10 to 20 mph. Wind chill readings 50 below to 55 below zero. 

Tonight: Partly cloudy. Lows 30 to 35 below. West winds 5 to 15 mph. Wind chill readings 55 below to 60 below zero. 

Tuesday: Partly sunny. Highs 5 to 10 below. West winds up to 10 mph. Lowest wind chill readings 40 below to 45 below zero in the morning. 

Tuesday Night: Partly cloudy. Lows 20 to 25 below. 

Wednesday: Mostly sunny. Highs zero to 5 below. 

Wednesday Night: Partly cloudy. Lows 10 to 15 below. 

Thursday: Mostly cloudy. Highs 10 to 15. 

Thursday Night: Partly cloudy. Lows 5 to 10. 

Friday: Partly sunny. Highs in the mid 20s. 

Friday Night: Partly cloudy. Lows 10 to 15. 

Saturday: Partly sunny. Highs 25 to 30. 

Saturday Night: Partly cloudy. Lows 15 to 20. 

Sunday: Partly sunny. Slight chance of light snow. Highs 25 to 30. 

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