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Cold-hard facts in this cold

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It's Minnesota, of course it's going to get cold.

Heck, it's a badge of honor for many us, we of hardy stock who can brave the sub-zero weather and still enjoy a great quality of life in north-central Minnesota. We snicker at those living in, say, Florida or California who panic when the thermometer drops to, oh. . . 40 degrees.

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But THIS IS COLD.

Early Monday, according to the National Weather Service office in Grand Forks, N.D., the temperature in Bemidji was 27 degrees below zero. Couple that with the wind chill factor, and the actual temp was 55 below. By early afternoon, it had "warmed" to 21 below, with a wind chill of only 45 below.

When it gets this cold, even the hardiest of us have to admit the climate can get the better of us. It is dangerous out there, and if you're not careful, a simple outing can turn into tragedy.

On Friday, Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton made the rare decision to cancel school the coming Monday because of the bitter cold snap that was about to descend on his state. While it may have caused headaches for many parents who had to alter their schedules, it was the right move in terms of safety. For those students who walk to school, Monday's temps would've been an extremely dangerous exercise. And for bused students, many of them rural, what could happen if that bus breaks down miles from anywhere? In fact, in Bemidji, one of the reasons for closing school last week, the first day after the Christmas break, was that they had a tough time getting the buses to start in the extreme cold. (Note: If it hasn't been proposed already, let's get more garages for the buses.)

And by making the announcement Friday, rather than on the weekend when communication lines are more fragmented, it gave school administrators and parents the time to prepare.

The governor closing schools statewide because of weather hadn't been done since Arne Carlson in January 1997, another brutal winter in the region. On Monday, however, Dayton said that local school districts would have the say to reopen or keep schools closed the following days. That, too, is a prudent move, as some districts (many in the northern climes) have a better handle on how to handle the cold.

The weather service says we should get a break from this cold grip by Thursday, with the high forecast at a balmy 7 degrees. And Saturday? Practically tropical at 28.

Fun aside, please be careful when venturing out in this type of weather. With these temps, and this wind, frostbite and then hypothermia can occur within minutes. Limit your time outdoors, and if you must be outside, dress in layers, making sure the clothes are dry and loose fitting. Also, remember to have a an emergency kit in your vehicle. Keep that cell phone charged.

Avoid alcohol outdoors, which causes your body to lose heat faster.

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