You can take your head out of the freezer now. The two-day, record-breaking heat that baked Twin Cities residents, crumbled highways and snarled traffic is on its way out and sweater weather is moving in.
Wednesday's temperature is expected to top out at 78 degrees and fall to 50 degrees at night, bringing immediate relief from the sudden sizzle that hovered over central and southern Minnesota for the past two days. Tuesday's high of 103 smashed the previous June 7 record of 95 degrees set in 2004, according to the National Weather Service. And Monday's high of 97 broke the record of 95 degrees set in 1987 and 1979.
Tuesday's blistering heat combined with 30 mile-per-hour winds to heighten the heat-in-your-face factor. "It felt like being hit with a blowtorch," said Weather Service meteorologist Michelle Margraf.
On a day when both an excessive-heat advisory and a pollution health alert were issued, Regions Hospital in St. Paul confirmed that at least two people were treated for heat-related illnesses and one patient came in with a bad sunburn. But an unusual number of people -- about 30 -- came in because they were suffering nausea, possibly caused by the heat, said hospital spokeswoman Kristen Kaufmann.
Out on the highways, some motorists reached new boiling points as roads heaved and broke apart in the heat, squeezing traffic into fewer lanes. Road crews scrambled to repair at least 19 major pavement failures, including eastbound Interstate 94 south of the Lowry Tunnel, near where the pavement heaved in the westbound lanes on Monday. Other troubled areas included southbound Interstate 35W at 4th Street, southbound Hwy. 100 at 66th Street, southbound Hwy. 77 near Interstate 35E and westbound I-94 at Mounds Boulevard.
As lanes were closed, commuters found it "pretty slow going," said Tom Shields at the Regional Traffic Management Center. "Traffic jams, then you get cars that stall and then you get crashes," Shields said. "You get people who aren't paying attention and they hit the guy in front of them."
While drivers did their best to cope, others flexed and improvised to adjust to the sudden temperature surge. The Minnesota State High School League pushed the boys' lacrosse state semifinal contests from 7 to 9 p.m. at Chanhassen High School. Water breaks could be taken every 4 minutes. At Murray Junior High School in St. Paul, some teachers cooled off students by offering spritzes of water for correct answers. In Plymouth, a concert band performance was canceled. And in Robbinsdale, owners of Travail Kitchen and Amusements shut down the restaurant because the air conditioning couldn't keep up.
The chefs were prepping in a kitchen equipped with French flattops. "It's like a gigantic cast-iron top that's heated by thousands and thousands of BTUs," said James Winberg, one of the chef/owners. "The restaurant was sitting at 85 and 90 degrees, which feels fine when you come in from 100-some-degree weather outside. But as soon as you get 50 or 60 people in the restaurant and everyone is running around, that changes dramatically. It's not comfortable to dine in that kind of heat, let alone to move.''
But as temperatures fall, Winberg expects to be cooking and open for business on Wednesday.
An average Minnesota year will include a few days in the 90s, said Margraf at the Weather Service. "And every couple of years, we might get a 100-degree day," she said. "The 100-degree day is unusual, but not unprecedented. But it is notable."
So while Twin Cities residents wipe the sweat from their brows, the forecast high for Thursday will be 66 degrees. "It will almost feel cold to some people," Margraf said. "If you don't like the heat, it will be refreshing."
Staff writers Paul Walsh, Patricia Lopez and Vince Tuss contributed to this report.
Mary Lynn Smith • 612-673-4788
The high of 103 degrees on Tuesday:
• Breaks the previous June 7 record of 95 degrees set in 2004.
• Was the first 100-plus reading since July 31, 2006.
• Was the first 103-plus reading since July 31, 1988.
• Was tied for the second-highest temperature in the past 69 years, behind 105 degrees on July 31, 1988.
• Was the second-earliest on record for 103 degrees, behind May 31, 1934.
• Fell one degree short of the all-time June record of 104 degrees on June 27, 1934.