Wicked cold tightens its grip on schools, travelers and stadium work

Cars quit, pipes burst and parents made backup plans

The Great Deep Freeze of 2014 brought take-your-breath-away subzero lows, emptied classrooms for two straight days and left streets deserted, cars stalled and pipes burst.

Black ice has made roads treacherous. The windchill and cold are freezing exposed flesh in five minutes.

Life has slowed to a crawl across the state.

It’s a blistering cold spell destined for Minnesota winter weather lore.

In the Twin Cities, Monday night’s overnight low of 23 below was the coldest temperature in a decade and practically a generation. The National Weather Service called it “a historic and life-threatening cold outbreak.” Frostbite patients swamped hospital emergency rooms.

After Monday’s high of 12 below, a few degrees of consolation is in sight: Tuesday’s predicted Twin Cities high is expected to be near zero. But before the long slow climb toward zero begins, windchills in the early morning hours are once again expected to register at between 35 and 55 below across much of ­Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

The majority of Twin Cities metro school districts called off school for a second day Tuesday — elation for kids but pure panic for working parents left in another day-care lurch.

Many people heeded the advice to stay home like the kids: Minneapolis parking ramps were half full and ­traffic was sparse with many workers staying home or telecommuting.

“It’s amazing to me to see the city had literally shut down,” Kelly Hillier said of her easy commute into downtown Minneapolis. “I was amazed there was nobody on the road.”

Those braving the cold were wrapped to their eyeballs in scarves, hoods, hats and parkas. The trails around Lake Harriet were nearly deserted except for Patrick O’Brien, who ran around the lake while his wife stayed home with the kids. Feeling a little playful, he wore his Spider Man Halloween costume.

“It feels great, “ he said, even admitting he worked up a little bit of a sweat with all the layers.

Sun Country Airline pilot Torben Kiese, just back from Tampa, Fla., took a stroll across Lake Harriet Monday morning under blue skies.

“It’s pretty down there. It’s a different kind of pretty here,” Kiese said. “You have to be careful. That’s for sure. If you dress right, it’s OK. The view from the middle of the lake is fantastic.”

At the same time, the Minnesota Department of Health sustained a possible $1 million worth of damages and suspended all testing in its infectious disease and environmental laboratories after its heating system failed Monday, causing water and freezing damage to equipment.

Short-lived ‘warmth’ coming

The deep cold is simply an intensification of global weather patterns that brought us a chilly December. A distorted jet stream has sent polar air directly south scross the Great Plains, while Fairbanks, Alaska, recorded 19 degrees at midafternoon Monday.

Although Twin Cities temperatures are predicted to warm toward 30 this weekend, the “polar vortex” is already reforming and could put Minnesota back on ice next week, said National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Hiltbrand.

In other words, it’s still early ­January with more winter to come.

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