The timing couldn’t be better — or worse.

A deep freeze with howling winds is invading Minnesota even as the Twin Cities’ signature celebration of all things winter begins.

The St. Paul Winter Carnival, which opens Thursday and wraps up Feb. 3, will feature a number of crowd-friendly events in downtown St. Paul and around Kellogg Mall Park, the Landmark Center and the State Fairgrounds.

With single-digit temperatures, lows below zero and gusty winds making things dangerously cold, the carnival will more than live up to its nickname “the Coolest Celebration on Earth,” according to the National Weather Service (NWS).

But already, the cold has led to cancellation of Thursday’s opening Moon Glow pedestrian parade because the air temperature will be headed to 11 below and windchills to 25 below zero or lower between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., carnival officials said late Wednesday.

Friday’s events at the Vulcan Snow Park at the State Fairgrounds also are canceled, but the park will reopen at 9 a.m. Saturday. The site offers a giant snowslide, a snow pile to play on and snow sculptures. It also hosts a snow-sculpting contest and a polar plunge.

Among other frigid fun with uncertain fates: Kellogg Mall Park concerts, ice carvings, a half marathon and shorter races.

Organizers for Saturday’s half marathon, 10-kilometer and 5-kilometer races are hopeful that the forecast of partly sunny skies and light winds will offset the anticipated chill when the three races get moving between 9 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.

“Essentially, if the weather is deemed too dangerous to run outdoors, the race will either be shortened or canceled,” said Jeff Bakken, spokesman for Securian Financial, the race’s sponsor. “Right now, with the forecast, the run is still scheduled to go on unaltered from the weather.”

The carnival is guided by the city’s weather policy, which says events can go on as scheduled unless the windchill slips to 25 below or colder.

“The safety of our carnival goers, volunteers and staff are of the utmost importance,” said Deb Schaber, president and CEO of the St. Paul Festival and Heritage Foundation, the carnival’s operator.

Carnival officials are expecting 200,000 to 300,000 visitors during the carnival’s 11-day run. For a complete schedule of events, go to www.wintercarnival.com.

Minuses will add up

Just how cold will it feel in the days ahead? The answer is blowing in the wind.

“Thursday night is going to be pretty bad for winds,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Caleb Grunzke said. Gusts of 25 mph or more in the metro will create “very brutal” windchill readings, Grunzke said.

Don’t be shocked at this drumbeat of below-normal readings, Grunzke said, noting that it’s at this point on the calendar when the coldest of cold days typically arrive.

If it’s any consolation, the coldest of cold nights comes Thursday, on Day 1 of the carnival, with a low of minus 11 expected. Over the next week, however, lows below zero are in the forecast all the way through next Monday, followed by a misnomer of a high on Tuesday: minus 1.

And not that this sliver of silver lining will take the bite out of the forecast, but the record low for this time of year are pretty much set in ice for another winter. The back end of January has a record low of 33 below zero.

 

Star Tribune staff writer James Walsh contributed to this report.