Minn. towns hit 46 below zeroThe good news is that it’s going to warm up. The bad news is that it’s going to take a few days.
By: BY JOHN MYERS FORUM COMMUNICATIONS CO. , The Jamestown Sun
The good news is that it’s going to warm up. The bad news is that it’s going to take a few days.
Friday’s incredibly cold blast of arctic air set a record for the coldest Jan. 21 in International Falls, saw Minnesota’s lowest temperature in two years and brought what were probably the lowest temperatures of this winter.
It hit 46 degrees below zero in International Falls around dawn, breaking the old Jan. 21 record of minus 41 set in 1954. It was also 46 below in Babbitt.
It was the coldest day in Minnesota since Babbitt hit minus 46 in January 2009 and tied 1968 as the lowest temperature in International Falls — the self-promoted Icebox of the Nation — since records moved to the airport in 1939, said assistant state climatologist Pete Boulay.
Many areas north of the Iron Range hit minus 40 or colder.
“But we’re used to that. Well, maybe not 46 below, but we’re used to the cold. … You plug in your car. You keep it in the garage. You dress for it. And you show up for work,” said Addie Khalar, reserve postmaster in Babbitt. “We have mostly foot routes and we covered them all. You have to. That’s the job. The (unshoveled) sidewalks are a bigger problem than the cold.”
The biggest problem was in northern Pine County, where a power line snapped in the cold and cut electricity to parts of Askov, Bruno and Kerrick about 5:30 a.m. But in true Northland style, the Pine County Sheriff ’s Department and volunteer firefighters went door-todoor checking on people, sending residents without backup heat to emergency shelters to stay warm. They even offered residents rides on buses if needed.
“It’s good to have a system, a plan in place for whatever emergency might come up,” said Pine County Chief Deputy Steven Blackburn. “But I think this is the first time we’ve done something like this at 20 below.”
Power was restored to all 1,400 residents by about 11 a.m. or earlier, said Amy Rutledge, Minnesota Power spokeswoman. Crews braved 20 below temperatures and waded through waist-deep snow to reach the remote line, she noted.
A few schools delayed classes two hours so temperatures would warm up a little, and a few canceled school altogether. But most schools and businesses stayed open, even ski hills such as Spirit Mountain and Chester Bowl, as most Northlanders who got their cars started went about life as usual — even in conditions that most people to the south find incomprehensible.
Just this week, International Falls recorded low morning temperatures of minus 34, minus 26, minus 24, minus 41 and minus 46. Yet on Friday morning, Laura Besch at the Rainy Lake One Stop store outside of town was still selling minnows to anglers headed out on Rainy Lake to try some ice fishing.
“They’re going out. They’re crazy, I wouldn’t do it, but people are fishing today. In shelters, of course,” Besch said. “I even sold a bag of ice this morning. I didn’t ask what it was for. I didn’t want to know.”
Everyone was talking about the weather, Besch noted, and folks were bragging about the new record. But everyone also was taking the usual precautions: Bundle up. Warm up the car. Keep moving.
“It’s seriously cold,” she said. “But people are laughing about it.”
Pete Leschak of Side Lake, north of Chisholm, said it was minus 36 when he took his dogs for a halfmile walk just before sunrise Friday morning.
“Venus glittered in the southeast, still brighter than the first blush of dawn, and it made the sky look cold,” Leschak said. “The dogs were unfazed, and so far as I could tell, did not see Venus.”
Leschak reminisced that such temperatures were far more common in the 1970s and 80s, but are now, his personal weather records show, very rare.
“It wouldn’t have occurred to a reporter in 1979 or 1989 to ask about minus 30 or minus 40,” said Leschak, a writer and wildland firefighter. “We had to hit minus 50 or minus 60 to make news.”