Minnesotans will spend another day in the deep freeze on the MLK Monday holiday as the bitter cold and dangerously low windchills continue for a third day.
The National Weather Service has issued a windchill advisory until noon for a large portion of southern and central Minnesota and western Wisconsin as windchill readings will hover between minus 25 to minus 35 degrees. That’s on top of temperatures in the teens below zero reported throughout the metro area at 5 a.m., the weather service said.
Black ice is a danger on the roads Monday, but traffic levels should be lighter as many people have the day off school or work and may opt to hibernate indoors. Those who do have to venture out should bundle up and cover exposed skin. Frostbite can occur in as few as 15 minutes and “to hypothermia or death if precautions are not taken,” the weather service warned.
A number of schools have delayed the start of classes or called them off because of the extreme cold.
The lengthy cold snap, however, is far from the record. The mercury stayed at or below zero for at least four consecutive days on 27 occasions in the Twin Cities from 1873 to 2014. The longest streak is seven days from January 1-7, 1912. By Monday afternoon, the temperature may trend into positive territory with a high of 1 above forecast.
The minus 12 degree temperature and minus 27-degree windchill at 5 a.m. at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport seems balmy compared to readings in northern and northeastern Minnesota. Hibbing checked in with a minus 24-degree reading and a windchill of minus 45 degrees. Ely was not far behind with the same temperature and a windchill of minus 40 degrees.
A hint of what’s to come can be found in the extreme southern and western portion of the state. There some temperatures are already at or above zero, including Canby at plus 4 degrees, Slayton at 1 and Pipestone and Jackson at zero. Windchills in those cities were still below zero.
Cars groaned across the metro and firefighters had to take special precautions while battling blazes in Minneapolis and St. Paul.
Vehicle batteries strained to get engines started in the Twin Cities. A spokeswoman for the AAA auto club said its call volume for assistance was 53 percent higher than on a normal winter Sunday, as of early evening.
A slight jump in the number of frostbite cases was detected over the weekend. “A half-dozen or more” new frostbite patients were reported at Hennepin County Medical Center in that time, hospital spokeswoman Christine Hill said.
About 4:30 p.m. Sunday, a fire was reported at an abandoned warehouse near 30th Avenue SE. and the University of Minnesota Transitway. Because of the cold, the 40 to 45 firefighters who attacked the fire from the exterior had to be rotated through in shorter shifts, said Bryan Tyner, a Minneapolis fire department spokesman.
Metro Transit provided a bus so that firefighters could keep warm, he added.
Tyner said no one was in the warehouse when firefighters arrived, and no injuries were reported.
Firefighters in St. Paul coped with icy surfaces while battling a residential blaze about 12:10 a.m. Sunday.
The kitchen of a house in the 1100 block of Jessie Street was “engulfed in flames, with flames shooting out the window,” when crews arrived, said Fire Marshal Steve Zaccard. The blaze was quickly extinguished.
“With the temperatures below zero, ice is always a problem for firefighters, although no one was injured as far as I know,” Zaccard said. “Ice coats the streets, sidewalks, firetrucks and ladders.”
Skaters and broomball combatants soldiered on Sunday afternoon under sunny skies at Matthews Park in Minneapolis. The warming house, however, was locked despite the usual noon-6 p.m. hours and a daily list showing it should have been open.
“Most of our warming houses are closed [Sunday] due to the temperature and windchill,” said Park and Recreation Board spokeswoman Dawn Sommers.
Metro Transit has put its cold weather protocol into effect through Monday night to protect Twin Cities passengers and others in the dangerous weather.
Some Transit centers, including the one at Target Field, remained open through the night, while the No. 5 and 19 buses, as well as the Green Line trains, will run at all hours, said transit spokesman Howie Padilla.
People were allowed to remain overnight in the 4th, 5th and 7th Street garages, and the Leamington and Gateway garages.
Padilla said passengers should join train operators and transit police in keeping a lookout for signs of anyone exhibiting symptoms of frostbite or other weather-related ailments.
“There’s the obvious advice to bundle up, but the other thing I don’t think can be reiterated enough is for people to look out for each other,” he said.
After another frigid day Tuesday, a January Thaw appears to be in the future. By the weekend, the thermometer could register 30 degrees. Highs in the 20s are expected Wednesday through Friday.