Governor Mark Dayton cancelled all public school classes statewide on Monday due to the forecasted extreme cold. Dayton issued the order Friday morning. He says the safety of Minnesota's school children is the state's first priority. Dayton reminds all Minnesotans to be cautious about the weather.
Temperatures were indeed cold, bitterly cold, and children and many others remained indoors on Monday. High temperatures on Monday were expected to be in the minus teens, and didn’t get much warmer than that.
On Tuesday, many area schools delayed classes, allowing time for the temperatures to raise slightly, and the wind speeds to decrease further.
This is the first time a Minnesota governor has closed schools in response to cold weather since former Governor Arne Carlson canceled schools in January 18, 1994, February 2, 1996 and January 16, 1997 due to the weather.
The coldest windchill ever seen in the Twin Cities or Minnesota can be a little tricky because in November 2001 the formula on how to calculate the windchill was changed. The new Wind Chill Temperature (WCT) index is designed to more accurately calculate how cold air feels on human skin. The index is based on heat loss from exposed skin and was tested on human subjects.
The Wind Chill Chart includes a frostbite indicator, showing the points where temperature, wind speed and exposure time will produce frostbite on humans.
Perhaps the coldest windchill the Twin Cities has ever seen was -67 degrees F with the new formula (-87 degrees F with the old formula) back on January 22, 1936. The temperature was -34 degrees F with a wind speed of 20mph. Without a lengthy state-wide wind record, it is difficult to say when was the coldest statewide windchill. There are some candidate dates though besides January 22, 1936. On January 9 and 10, 1982 temperatures of -30 degrees F and winds of around 40mph were reported in Northern Minnesota. This would translate to -71 degrees F by the new formula (-100 degrees F by the old formula.)
Wind Chill warnings remained in effect until Tuesday morning, as continued wind combined with low temperatures would cause wind chill values of -25 to -35.
These bitter cold temperatures are a reminder to be prepared and take precautions during the winter months.
Cold Weather Safety Tips
Knowing that dangerous weather conditions will persist throughout the weekend and into early next week, the Minnesota Department of Public Safety, the Minnesota Department of Health, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation have provided the following cold weather safety tips for Minnesotans of all ages:
• Make a plan. What will you and your family do if you’re separated during an unplanned event, like a blizzard or a power outage?
• Make a kit. Do you have enough reserve supplies on hand to keep yourself and your family warm and safe for an extended time?
• Stay informed. Get a battery powered TV, radio or NOAA weather radio. Keep extra batteries handy. If you use a cell phone, be sure you have a vehicle charger.
On the road
Each year, hundreds of Minnesotans find themselves stranded on the roadside. Winter weather can kill in mere minutes an unprepared person exposed to the elements.
• A cell phone is a valuable tool for drivers who witness, or are involved in, emergency situations.
• Check road conditions at www.511mn.org or call 511; it takes time to get roads back to good driving conditions.
• Stay back at least five car lengths behind the plow, far from the snow cloud.
• Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions, and give yourself plenty of travel time.
• Avoid unnecessary travel if road conditions are too poor.
Frostbite and hypothermia
Exposure to extremely cold temperatures can cause hypothermia or frostbite – with the nose, cheeks, ears, fingers, and toes most commonly affected. Follow these tips from the Department of Public Safety to avoid, identify, and treat frostbite and hypothermia.
Frostbite is the freezing of skin and extremities on the body.
• In superficial frostbite, burning, numbness, tingling, itching, or cold sensations in the affected areas. The regions appear white and frozen, cold to the touch, or discolored (flushed, white or gray, yellow or blue).
• In deep frostbite, there is an initial decrease in sensation that is eventually completely lost. Swelling and blood-filled blisters are noted over white or yellowish skin that looks waxy and turns a purplish blue as it rewarms. The area is hard, has no resistance when pressed on, and may even appear blackened and dead.
In very cold weather, a person’s body can lose heat faster than they can produce it. The result is hypothermia, or abnormally low body temperature. It can make a person sleepy, confused and clumsy. Because it happens gradually and affects one’s thinking and may not be immediately recognized. That makes it especially dangerous. A body temperature below 95° F is a medical emergency and can lead to death if not treated promptly.
Signals of hypothermia include: shivering, numbness, glassy stare; apathy, weakness, impaired judgment, incoherent speech; loss of consciousness.
• Take it easy. Cold puts extra strain on your heart. Heavy exertion can increase the risk of heart attack.
• Don’t overheat. Dress warmly, but peel layers as necessary to stay comfortable.
• Slow down. Rest frequently to avoid overexertion when working outdoors.
• Stay hydrated.
• Stay alert. Know the signs of frostbite and hypothermia. Warm extremities frequently.
• Stay inside. During snowstorms, blowing snow and cold can make it hard to see and easy to get lost — even close to home.
• Dress right. Dress in snowsuits or layers of clothing, waterproof coat and boots, mittens or gloves and a hat.
• Wear a hat. Body heat is lost through the head, so always wear a hat or hood. Cover your ears, too. They are easily subject to frostbite.
• Wear gloves, or mittens are even better than gloves, because fingers maintain more warmth when they touch each other.
• Use a scarf to keep your neck warm. A scarf can also be worn over your mouth to help protect your lungs from extremely cold air.
• Warm up. Go inside often for warm-up breaks.
• Stay near adults. Always play near home or where there are adults nearby who can help you.
• Stay away from streets and snowplows.
• Stay off of ice.
The threat of carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning is typically highest in the winter, even more so when the temperatures dip so low. CO is a deadly, odorless, colorless and tasteless gas. Only a special CO detector can alert you of a problem. These detectors should be installed on every floor of a home or business, and especially near bedrooms.
Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning mimic those of the flu without a fever, including headache, nausea, dizziness, confusion, and shortness of breath. If you have these symptoms after being in an enclosed area, get fresh air immediately and seek medical attention.
CO can also fill your home if you warm your car up in the garage, or even halfway outside the garage. Commonly the exhaust containing carbon monoxide fills the garage and doesn’t dissipate, forcing it into the home.
Don’t use a cooking stove or a grill, either gas or charcoal, to provide heat in a home, garage, or fishing shack. Do not use a fuel-burning space heater in an enclosed space without proper venting.
Make sure your natural gas appliances or equipment are installed, maintained and used properly and safely.
With a furnace and water heater running overtime, condensation can form ice and block the vents located on the top or side of your home. Chimneys and sidewall vents must be clear to allow proper venting, which prevents accumulation of carbon monoxide or equipment malfunction.
The Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources wants low-income Minnesotans—especially seniors, people with disabilities, and families with children—to know that grant funds from the Energy Assistance Program (EAP) are still available to help pay their heating bills and help them stay safe and warm this winter.
“This brutally cold weather streak is an opportunity to remind Minnesotans who are struggling to pay their heating bills that help is still available,” said Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman. “Heating one’s home is a necessity in Minnesota, and we don’t want households to compromise their safety. EAP funds can help households avoid the difficult choice between buying food and medicine and paying their heating bill. We encourage families and individuals who need assistance to apply for EAP.”
The average energy assistance grant is $500 per household. Households with an income less than 50 percent of the state median income ($43,642 for a family of four) may qualify; those who qualify are served on a first-come, first-served basis while funds last. People have until May 31, when the program year ends, to apply for EAP.
EAP pays the utility company directly on behalf of eligible households. Qualifying families must apply for assistance at the local service provider in their area; Minnesota has 32 local service providers. A list of local service providers and information on applying for the Minnesota Energy Assistance Program is available by visiting the Energy Assistance section of the Division of Energy Resources website (mn.gov/commerce/energy/) or by calling 1-800-657-3710 or 651-539-1882. EAP is administered by the Minnesota Department of Commerce.
Other forms of assistance may be available through county social service programs, community-based organizations, and nonprofit agencies. See the Stay Warm Minnesota webpage for a list of resources.