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Dangerous cold and snow forces school closures

  • Article by: AMY FORLITI
  • Associated Press
  • January 27, 2014 - 7:55 PM

MINNEAPOLIS — School districts across Minnesota announced they will remain closed for yet another day Tuesday, as wind chills were expected to reach 35 to 50 degrees below zero.

The National Weather Service issued a wind chill warning statewide through noon Tuesday.

The latest round of subzero temperatures, high winds and blowing snow will force many Minnesota schools to be closed at least two straight days, including Anoka-Hennepin and St. Paul public schools. University of Minnesota was closed Monday, but the Twin Cities campus will reopen at noon Tuesday.

Griffin Ferry was among students who knew he'd have some make up work because of the unscheduled day off.

"I've never experienced anything like this, these persistent subzero temperatures," said Ferry, a law student at the University of Minnesota School of Law. "It's very unpleasant."

Monday afternoon's highs remained below zero across Minnesota. Minneapolis, St. Paul and Redwood Falls reached only 6 below, St. Cloud 7 below and Alexandria 12 below.

The Northstar commuter rail experienced some delays Monday morning when switches on the tracks in Elk River froze, and in the metro area, light rail service between the Mall of America and the Humphrey Terminal 2 Station was suspended for about 90 minutes due to snow on the tracks, the Star Tribune reported.

Gov. Mark Dayton issued an emergency order Monday to help stranded motorists caught in Minnesota's cold wave. He also ordered Minnesota's adjutant general to activate any military personnel needed to help motorists.

After some major roadways had closed Sunday because of blowing and drifting snow — including Interstate 90 west of Albert Lea and Interstate 94 from Moorhead to Alexandria — the Minnesota Department of Transportation reopened them.

Minnesota-based utility Xcel Energy also lifted its appeal for customers to turn down their thermostats Monday, after three natural gas pipelines were knocked out by an explosion in Canada.

Meanwhile, parents and day care providers had to be creative to entertain kids stuck indoors for yet another day.

The children at Karen Ueland's home day care in St. Paul have been burning off extra energy by dancing and marching around with instruments.

"That's their favorite thing to do," she said.

ManaRae Schaan, executive director of Tiny Tots and Little Tykes Preschool and Child Care Center in West St. Paul, said she's glad she has a room where kids can ride tricycles, scooters or jump rope. They also have been playing more games, reading and hosting more special events — last week, staff from Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium brought in starfish and artifacts for the kids to touch.

"We're just trying to keep them busy. But it is definitely more of a challenge when you can't get outside, that's for sure," Schaan said. "Kids sleep better and they do better when they can get outside."

It was negative 24 degrees in International Falls on Monday morning when about 135 people began the Arrowhead 135, a race to Fortune Bay. The multiday race includes mostly bicyclists, but a couple skiers also took part, Minnesota Public Radio News reported.

Chadd Romanowicz, a 35-year-old property maintenance technician from St. Paul, was shoveling a city sidewalk in Minneapolis on Monday.

Originally from International Falls, Minn., which is known for its extreme cold temperatures, he said he handles the cold by wearing several layers and taking coffee breaks to warm up.

After just three minutes of talking, frost had formed on his beard and eyelashes.

"It's time for a break," he said.

© 2014 Star Tribune