BEMIDJI -- The deep freeze forecast for Monday arrived -- and then some.
Extreme cold blanketed much of the region Monday, with wind chills of 50 below and colder reported throughout Minnesota and surrounding states.
Schools were closed throughout the state Monday on orders from Gov. Mark Dayton, but the governor decided to leave the decision about closing schools on Tuesday to local officials. Late Monday evening, Bemidji Area Schools closed school on Tuesday, according to the school district's website.
It was 27 below in Bemidji at 9 a.m. Monday, but coupled with the wind chill, it actually felt like 55 below. It “warmed up” to 21 below by mid-afternoon, before dropping back down into the evening hours.
Among the coldest cities was extreme northeast Minnesota's Grand Marais, which at 9 a.m. was 31 below zero with a 61 below wind chill. In Alexandria, the wind chill still was 56 below Monday afternoon.
In contrast, the temperature in Nome, Alaska, on Monday topped 30 degrees.Crikey, it’s cold
The cold snap also attracted international attention.
Chris Muller of the Beltrami County, Minn., Emergency Management office was interviewed by the Australian National News in Sydney about what temperatures felt like in Bemidji on Monday.
“We are bundled up, but we are managing,” Muller told the Aussies, who were dealing with 70 degree temperatures. “We just take it easy and check on our neighbors, especially the elderly.”
The miserably cold had plenty of company in several states. Upper Midwest cities reporting just slightly warmer wind chills than Alexandria and Grand Marais ranged from Owatonna in southern Minnesota to Green Bay in eastern Wisconsin to Devils Lake in eastern North Dakota.
Nearly 20 states endured below-zero wind chill temperatures Monday, but the misery index was worst in the Upper Midwest.
On the good-news side Monday, temperatures did not set record lows (which are about 60 below in North Dakota and Minnesota) and Mall of America's Nickelodeon Universe gave people free rides at the indoor amusement park.
But bad news was much more common.
Near Winona, in southeast Minnesota, dive teams found the body of one man near a vehicle that went into the Mississippi River early Sunday. Two other bodies were recovered Sunday afternoon. A fourth person thought to be in the vehicle remained missing late Monday afternoon.
Some roads were a problem. “Not a good day to slide into the ditch,” Kevin Gutknecht of the Minnesota Department of Transportation said in urging people to be careful of black ice that often forms when it is so cold.
Throughout the Upper Midwest, state transportation authorities reported a variety of road conditions, ranging from clear to snow and ice covered. Roads were especially bad in parts of North Dakota and Minnesota.
Two firefighters in Devils Lake, N.D., were recovering from frostbite and two others were hurt in falls while fighting a Sunday elevator fire.
The cold can be more than a chilling experience, it can be a health hazard, officials warned.
“At these temperatures, exposed skin can freeze within minutes,” said Philip Schumacher, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Sioux Falls, S.D. “Your life can be in danger in less than an hour should you be outside without adequate clothing.”
Warmer by weekend
Weather officials did have some good news, however. There should be a respite of the arctic weather by this weekend, with forecasts calling for highs of about 27 on Friday and Saturday. But today and Wednesday will still be frigid, with a high today of only 8 below with wind chills again in the 40-below range. It will again become colder overnight into Wednesday, where the high is expected at only 1 below. Thursday should be bring us back on the good side of the mercury at 14 above before the weekend “warm-up.”
Don Davis of Forum News Service and other Forum Communications Co. properties contributed to this report.