The sun briefly came out late Monday morning as winter storm warnings gave way to windchill advisories and a temperature free fall was about to begin. Actual air temperatures will fall below zero Monday night and remain there through until Friday morning, with near record lows close to minus-30 degrees expected by midweek, the National Weather Service said.
Adding to the misery will be dangerously low windchills on Tuesday night through Thursday morning approaching minus-50 to minus-65 in the metro area and across east central, south central and southeast Minnesota, weather service said.
“The dangerously cold windchills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 5 minutes,” the weather service said in issuing windchill advisories in effect from 3 a.m. to 3 p.m. Tuesday and a windchill warning in effect from 3 p.m. Tuesday until 9 a.m. Thursday.
The polar air mass bringing the coldest readings in more than 20 years has the Minneapolis and St. Paul schools, along with many suburban districts, calling off classes on Tuesday and Wednesday, and other districts may follow suit. Scores of districts closed Monday, including St. Paul and Anoka-Hennepin. The University of Minnesota said it will cancel classes after noon on Tuesday and all day Wednesday in the Twin Cities.
Temperatures in the single digits were already causing trouble for some motorists. Those who called AAA Minneapolis Monday for jump-starts and flat tires were waiting one to two hours for service, said spokeswoman Meredith Terpstra.
Cities across the metro area declared snow emergencies after 2 to 6 inches of fluffy snow fell across the metro Sunday night and into Monday morning. The fast-moving clipper coated roads with ice and snow even through MnDOT had more than 200 trucks working to get them in shape for the morning rush.
From midnight to 10 a.m. Monday, the State Patrol responded to 134 crashes and 137 spinouts statewide. Among the worst was a jackknifed semi that blocked lanes of northbound I-694 near 10th Street in Oakdale for about two hours late Monday morning. The freeway reopened about noon.
Reports of spinouts and crashes continued into Monday afternoon as winds blew snow back onto roads that plows had already cleared, and roads glazed over. With temperatures well below freezing, chemicals don’t work as well, said MnDOT spokesman Kevin Gutknecht.
“Motorists need to slow down, and give plows room,” he said.
Officials at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport were advising travelers to verify the status of their flight before heading to the airport, but there were few disruptions Monday. Only nine flights were canceled and six were delayed as of midmorning, said airport spokesman Patrick Hogan.
Snow totals of 2 to 6 inches were reported across the Twin Cities. As of Monday morning, 6 inches in Hastings, 5.3 inches had fallen in Lakeville, 5 inches in Plymouth, Prior Lake, Burnsville, Victoria and Robbinsdale, 4.5 in Maple Plain and Osseo, 4.4 inches in Fridley, and 3. 2 inches at MSP.
In greater Minnesota, totals included 9.5 inches in Mable in southeastern Minnesota, 9 inches in Goodview near Winona, 8.5 northeast of Rochester, 8 inches in Grand Meadow, 7.2 inches in Owatonna, 7 inches in Mankato, 7 inches in Stewartville and 6.5 inches in Wabasha.
Now that the snow has ended, temperatures will start to plunge, ushering in at least three days of predicted below-zero weather, something that has not occurred at MSP since Jan. 13-15, 2009, according to accuweather.com.
The highs are expected to be in the double digits below zero Tuesday and Wednesday, with a slight warm-up to single digits below zero come Thursday.
“I think the proper term is nasty cold,” said Tyler Hasenstein, meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen. Though the predictions for the snow accumulation varied on Sunday, he said the concern about the upcoming temperature drop has stayed consistent.
“We are very confident this cold is going to be significant,” Hasenstein said. “People are right to be concerned.”
The midweek cold spell will rival the frigid February of 1996, which closed schools and challenged septic systems and car batteries. But that didn’t come with the 10 to 15 mph winds predicted this week.
Temps on Wednesday could fall to 30 below at MSP. If that happens, it would be first time that’s occurred since 1996. Record lows at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport include 29 below on Jan. 29, 1951; 30 below for Jan. 30, 1887, and 27 below for Jan. 31, also set in 1887. The all time low in Minneapolis is minus-41 degrees on Jan. 21, 1888, according to accuweather.com.
The deep freeze will release its grip by Saturday with a high of 36 degrees above zero. And with that balmy warmth comes a chance of rain and snow, the weather service said.