The polar vortex has arrived in Minnesota, and with it, the grim resignation that winter is here to stay.
After a relatively warm start, the state is now getting a cold, hard dose of winter — and we mean cold. Temperatures across the state will plunge below zero Tuesday through Thursday. Wednesday’s temperatures could dip to 30 degrees below zero, which would be the coldest in two decades.
As National Weather Service meteorologist Tyler Hasenstein told the Star Tribune Monday, "I think the proper term is nasty cold."
Although we Minnesotans are known to be proud of our ability to endure even the worst weather, there’s a level of cold where even the hardiest among us cry uncle. Thirty below probably hits that spot for most of us.
As the state turns into frozen tundra for the next few days, we’ve collected some tips for how to survive the “nasty cold.”
Sub-zero weather is bad enough. Add in wind chill and it becomes potentially dangerous.
The National Weather Service has issued a wind chill warning from Tuesday through Thursday morning, as wind chills as low as 65 below are expected in western and central Minnesota.
Doctors say pain or a tingling feeling can be the first sign of frostbite. If you or someone you know shows signs of frostbite — like skin becoming rigid, developing blisters or turning purple after warming up — seek immediate medical attention.
If you do have to go outside, the best option: layers upon layers. Experts recommend dressing in multiple layers of loose-fitting, lightweight and warm clothing, covering exposed skin, and of course, wearing a hat and mittens — even if it’s just to fetch the mail.
Caring for your car
There’s no worse way to start your morning commute than a cold, dead vehicle that won’t turn over. Luckily, there are a few things that can help your car withstand the cold.
The first one’s easy: Keep the gas tank at least half full. It will help minimize condensation build-up and prevent the gas line from freezing.
Second, make sure your vehicle’s in tip-top shape by checking the battery, tire pressure, oil levels, and heating and cooling systems.
Mechanics also recommend using coolant with antifreeze protection down to the lowest temperature, ensuring tires are inflated to proper levels and replacing worn windshield wipers, among other tips.
Additionally, take the time to brush off and scrape your car before hitting the road. Don’t be a “peephole driver,” one of those people who think it’s okay peek out the windshield through a tiny hole in the frost. You know who you are.
It’s also a good idea to pack a winter emergency kit. Every driver should have a coat or blanket, boots, flashlight with extra batteries, an ice scraper and jumper cables. Signal flares, reflective triangles and strobe lights will also help, making it easier for others to spot your vehicle if you’re stranded on the side of the road.
Looking out for furry friends
We love our four-legged friends. But we don’t always know what’s best for them in the frosty weather.
Pets’ tolerance for the cold depends a variety of factors, including their fur coat, body fat and health. Like people, all cats and dogs can experience frostbite and hypothermia.
The American Veterinary Medical Association recommends that pets should not be outside for long periods in sub-zero temperatures. They also advise against leaving pets in the car, unattended.
On walks, it might be a good idea to dress your pup in a coat and booties, especially if they have a short fur coat. When you get back inside, wipe down your pet’s feet and legs to remove deicing salt, antifreeze and other toxic chemicals, which can be poisonous if pets lick their feet.
Filling your belly
Sometimes the best way to warm up is from the inside.
Because when you’re holed up in a toasty home and you’ve already watched both Frye Festival documentaries, gobbling down food may be the only thing left to do.
With the arctic chill here to stay, at least for a few days, you might as well hunker down and start practicing hygge, the Danish word (pronounced hoo-ga) for creating coziness and comfort.
From sipping on mulled wine to steaming in a Finnish sauna, there are plenty of ways to get your Hygge on in the Twin Cities.
Or you can give in to temptation and binge some of the year’s best movies, all from your own couch.
Whatever your method of coping, the bitter cold doesn’t have to be totally miserable. In a few days, anything above zero is going to feel like summer anyway.
Austen Macalus is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.