I thought it was supposed to get cold last night. Reports indicated that temperatures in northern Minnesota could approach 40 below with wind chill factors near 50 below. Well, according to weather.com, the coldest it got in Warroad was -33 degrees. That’s nothing!
I needed to drive from Warroad to Greenbush and then back last night. It was fun watching the outdoor temperature reading in my car fluctuate as I drove. At 6:00, it was -22 at my house (just west of Warroad a few miles). It was -24 in Salol. It was only -18 in Roseau. By the time I got to Badger, it showed -25, so when I got to Greenbush and it was only -20, that wasn’t so bad. OK, it was a little chilly.
Of course, the temperatures were only going down from there. On the return trip which began at about 7:00, it was now -26 in Badger, -20 in Roseau… In Salol, it reached -27. And as I rolled into my driveway a about 7:45, the temperature read -28. I noticed at that time that on weather.com, it said the temperature in Warroad was -20. Is it possible that five miles west of town it could be eight degrees colder? Absolutely.
As I drove east, the Man in the Moon, in full display on this clear, cold night, appeared to be almost mocking and taunting as it stared down at me. It was as bright as I’ve ever seen it, signaling how clear and cold it was outside my car.
I went inside and turned up my backup heat source, just making sure that it was working. As I was hearing that some schools west of the Twin Cities metro area were going two hours late on Friday morning due to cold conditions, I wondered why. Until, that is, I read that diesel fuel can turn into a gel-like form at such cold temperatures. I’m no scientist, but if that’s true that can’t be good.
I flipped on the television. Up in Warroad, with cable, we get two Canadian television stations and their temperatures weren’t too much colder than ours, even way up in Flin Flon.
Around midnight last night is when I saw the -33 temperature in Warroad on weather.com. I wonder if that meant that it could be -40 or so at my house? I do know that the dog had to be coaxed to go outside! At the same time, I checked on International Falls which was sitting at -42 degrees, the coldest in the state. Imagine what some of the more remote areas just outside of I-Falls reached?
People frequently ask how life is different in such extreme cold temperatures. For those that live here in the winter, it really isn’t any different. They get up in the morning, go to work, go home and get the things done that they need to. Cold winters are just part of life up here, and it’s not like the hard-working community will just shut down. People go about their business as always.
Granted, when it’s -25 to -30 below zero, people don’t make snowmen or organize bonfires. Generally they won’t go on their nature walks, at least not until the temperature rises to -10. Let’s be honest, when it’s -33 degrees not a whole bunch of people are out and about. (That said, Warroad was playing Thief River Falls at The Gardens in Warroad last night, so there were a lot of people out, driving home, when the temperatures were in that -25 to -27 range after the game.)
I work with Jeff Siverhus, a Senior Product Planner at Marvin Windows and Doors. Every day, he walks to work, a walk that is a little more than a mile. He walks to work, then home for lunch, back to work and then home at the end of the day. There have been several mornings this winter season in which temperatures have been -10 or colder, and he continues to walk every day. Granted, he bundles up quite well.
His comment, “What? As long as it is not windy, it’s not so bad, and if you’re moving, it’s no biggy.”
He added, “People up in Thompson, Manitoba, get temperatures like this all the time. They probably laugh when they hear us complain about a -30 or -40 degree night. “
Thompson, Manitoba, is 600 miles north of Warroad. (Consider that a drive from Warroad to Rochester is just under 450 miles.)
I asked another co-worker, Bill Boyd, who also is a dog-sled racer and owns many huskies, how the dogs react or respond to the cold weather. He said, “They don’t mind it at all. In fact, they each have their own doghouse, and I’ve found that most of the dogs just sleep out in the snow instead of their houses, even in these extreme temperatures.”
The show must go on, and often sled dog races take place in very cold conditions, temperatures cold enough to make your eyes nearly freeze. One of Bill’s racing friends devised a solution for the cold because his goggles kept freezing. Below is a picture that Bill took of his wife, Shirlee, wearing the special goggles made of sheep skin and rabbit fur.
By morning, cloud-cover had come and the temperatures were already up to -18 below, and we in Warroad have been at that level several times this year already. I moved to Warroad after college in 1997. I move to the Twin Cities in 2007 and lived there for three years until moving back to the northern Minnesota community in August. I remember one year when the temperature did not get above 0 for over a month straight. I remember a time when it didn’t reach -20 for a week straight.
Cold is part of living in northern Minnesota. (But honestly, living in Warroad between April and October is great, weather-wise!)
There’s a little epilogue to this tale of coldness…
This morning, I went out to the garage to start the car (wearing shorts, a sweatshirt, slippers and a stocking cap). I let it run for about 15 minutes while I got dressed and then bundled up my daughter. When we went out to the car, the temperature had warmed up enough to allow it to snow, and blow. Now wind chill becomes a factor, to be sure. We drove to daycare, just across Highway 11, about a half-mile. I dropped my daughter off there. When I came back outside, my car was again full of wet snow. After backing up, I stopped the car and scraped the snow off of the front and back wind shield.
However, once I started driving down the driveway, it didn’t take long before I couldn’t see well. I couldn’t see the right edge of the road, and I hit it. I could not pull the car back onto the driveway, so I was in the ditch, in a steep-incline. There was no way to drive out. Uggh!
I walked back down the long driveway to the daycare’s house. She woke up her husband, who had been out coyote hunting in the full moon until 3:30 this morning. He got up and asked if it had been snowing. He couldn’t believe it was warm enough for snow because, as they were driving around and then setting up outside calling coyotes along the back roads between Warroad and Roseau, they were seeing (and feeling) temperatures below -40. Since it had warmed up to just -15, it was snowing.
Anyway, after several attempts, my car was pulled out of the ditch, and I was able to drive in to work.
By the time I got to the office in town, the temperature read just -13. That’s nothing!