'It's not the cold, it's the wind chill'by Bob Kelleher, Minnesota Public Radio
An arctic chill gripped Minnesota for the third day today, where the temperature in the town of Embarrass this morning slipped to 42 degrees below zero. The morning temperature in Duluth was 23 below, with a wind chill closer to 40 below. Schools were closed in Duluth and many other Minnesota communities.
Duluth, Minn. — While a lucky few were able to stay warm in their homes, others were on the job out in the frigid weather, and they were taking the chill in stride.
"They say it's not the temperature, it's the wind chill," said Dan Jaski of Duluth, as he huddled in the relative comfort of a Duluth city pickup truck. The engine's running and there's plenty of heat inside.
Jaski is keeping an eye on a nearby tractor that's punching through the asphalt of a very wet city street. A water main has broken, and Jaski's crew is here to patch it up.
"It's not that bad," Jaski said. "Actually, you get used to it after a while. I've been doing this for 32 years."
It's a good thing Jaski's got a good attitude and a heated truck. There were a half dozen broken water mains across Duluth Monday. Jaski just dresses very warmly and tries to stay out of the wind.
"It's all you can do. And if you get cold, you've got to get in the truck and warm up," Jaski said. "It's not worth the frostbite. We'll get it fixed eventually."
Broken water pipes were all too common as the coldest weather of the year settled over Duluth and the rest of the Upper Midwest. The Duluth Parks and Recreation Department is dealing with burst pipes in one of the community centers.
The centers closed Monday due to the cold, as did a city downhill ski area and the public skating rinks. The department's Julene Boe says it's just too cold to play outdoors.
"When the temperature and wind chill gets below 20 below, it really is too cold to have children outside doing these outdoor activities. And so, to make it safe, we just close everything down," Boe said.
The odd thing is, the rinks were closed much of December too.
"It's funny, earlier this year we had the problem where it was too warm," Boe recalled.
It was a wind chill warning across the region Monday morning that closed schools across the state, including those in Duluth.
"Any time we get a wind chill warning as issued by the National Weather Service, that kind of puts us in the mode of starting to ask questions," says Bill Hanson, the Duluth school district's director of business services, "because we'd be looking at wind chills in the minus 45 or minus 50 range."
The wind chill warning was downgraded Monday afternoon to an advisory, meaning chills in the relatively balmy 15 to 25 below zero range -- still dangerous, but not necessarily deadly.
Police say it could have been deadly over the weekend for one Duluth toddler.
A 14-month-old was hospitalized Saturday after a rescue from a parked car. Police say the child was in the unheated car for about half an hour, and dressed inappropriately for the 20 below zero temperature. The child's mother may face charges.
It was almost cold enough to cancel a polar bear plunge in Lake Superior Saturday. Volunteers still plunged for charity, but not in the lake. Organizers filled a couple of tubs with tap water, which still felt plenty cold in the outdoors near Duluth's ship canal.
Traffic seemed a bit lighter than usual in Duluth, and the sidewalks for mostly empty. But business was, shall we say, brisk, at the local Cub Foods grocery store.
Actually, there was still plenty of room in the parking lot where Russ Schramm was braving a stinging wind to round up the empty shopping carts. It's clear Schramm's been around the block a few times, and he's seen plenty of days colder than this one.
"Just deal with it. Go out for a while, and come in and warm up. Go out again and warm up. Just another day," said Schramm.
For the most part, that's pretty much what people are doing. Staying inside as much as possible, warming up when they can, and just dealing with it.
- All Things Considered, 02/06/2007, 5:50 p.m.