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Cold weather slams area

A down coat rated to 50 degrees below zero is what Park Rapids resident Chris Wilde uses to keep warm during the cold snap. She forgot her gloves, but borrowed her husband's. Lorie Skarpness/Enterprise1 / 2
Walking nine miles a day on his route in Park Rapids, mail carrier Rick LaPointe uses layering to keep warm in below-zero weather. Lorie Skarpness/Enterprise2 / 2

Park Rapids made the national news Wednesday for having the lowest windchill temperature — 49 degrees below zero with an actual air temperature of minus 24 degrees — putting the area in a windchill warning.

The National Weather Service is forecasting even colder temperatures for this weekend, with temperatures likely to remain below zero through at least Monday morning and lows dipping near 30 degrees below zero.

The cold contributes to a number of problems, including freezing water pipes, power outages, furnaces working overtime and the possibility of hypothermia.

Extreme cold affected overhead power lines, causing outages in the Itasca-Mantrap Electric Cooperative service territory early morning Wednesday. The outages affected approximately 675 Itasca-Mantrap members in parts of Arago, Clover, Savannah and Two Inlets townships. Itasca-Mantrap crews were dispatched shortly after 5 a.m. and worked in the area until power was fully restored at approximately 10:45 a.m.

Itasca-Mantrap members can stay updated on outage information through an outage map at www.itasca-mantrap.com or by following Itasca-Mantrap on Facebook.

Two local towing companies were really busy Thursday, with the phone ringing constantly. Customers requested jump starts or roadside assistance. A third company said they had only four or five calls. One staff member said 99 percent of calls are due to people not plugging in their cars or having a battery that is not charging fully.

Plumbing and heating companies have also seen a jump in calls, mainly due to heating system issues and frozen pipes. Furnaces work harder when they are running continuously in the cold which can cause breakdowns, according to Ryan Sharp of R&G Lennox.

"If you have a high-efficiency furnace, check your outside vents because they may be frozen over," he said. Frost on the vent can be cleaned off using a snow brush.

While some people say to leave a faucet running at a slow drip to keep lines from freezing, he said that can lead to problems with septic lines freezing instead. Running hot water through the water lines periodically and then shutting off the water works better.

Park Rapids city mail carrier Rick LaPointe said he stays warm while walking nine miles a day delivering the mail by layering and wearing boots with built in gators.

"It's still rough when zero seems warm," he said.

Chris Wilde of Park Rapids said her LL Bean down coat rated to 50 degrees below zero is her "go to" in this type of weather. She woke up early Wednesday morning to a temperature of 50 degrees in her house.

"I had to wait until 8 o'clock to call the furnace guy and when I did I said, 'Help, I'm an old lady and I'm freezing to death in my house!'" she said. "It turned out that the propane regulator on the tank had frozen, and once it was thawed by pouring hot water on the regulator it worked just fine."

While some people do not like the cold weather because of the problems it causes, others embrace it.

Jerry Novak said he thinks our winter weather is great, snow and all.

"That's why we live here," he said. "I'm ice fishing every day in my heated fish house on Fish Hook Lake. I don't even need a jacket."

In spite of Wednesday's cold temperatures, he said he had a good day of fishing, catching two northerns and a walleye.

Noel Allard said he doesn't mind the cold weather and neither does his wife, Mary. They live on Miran Lake near Menahga.

"I just had shoulder surgery, so I am relegated to the house," he said. "I'm supposed to have a sling, but I can still run the snowblower. The cold weather doesn't bother me and I never wear a hat."

When he's not recovering from shoulder surgery, Allard shovels an area of the lake that they ice skate on. They also snowshoe and hike.

"We're out all the time," he said. "Now I'm inside more working on my model airplanes and model railroad."

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