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Brr-race for more bitter cold

This isn't the week to pull "A Christmas Story" version of licking the flag pole.

Unseasonably arctic cold is going to linger like an unwelcome holiday guest. A wind chill advisory blanketed the state and covered a wide swath of the Midwest Tuesday with little relief in the forecast. Wind chill values in the lakes area reached between 25 below and 30 below Tuesday afternoon, a condition expected to be repeated Wednesday, Dec. 27.

The Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport recorded an overnight temperature of 18 below with a wind chill of 36 below early Tuesday morning and that duo was largely unchanged by 9 a.m. Tuesday's high temperature represents a nearly 30-degree departure from the normal high for this time of year of 22 degrees above. It appears the La Nina forecast for a colder winter was on target—at least into its early stages. The 47 degrees high recorded on Dec. 2 is a dim memory.

Temperatures on Christmas Day reached 16 below at its coldest and was 6 below for the day's high. But that wasn't enough to dent the record cold for Christmas Day, which solidly remains the 32 below air temperature recorded on Dec. 25, 1968, or the coldest Christmas Day high of 10 below in 1983.

Six inches of snow remains on the ground currently and more is expected after midnight Wednesday and before noon Thursday. That brief snow event, with accompanying cloudy skies, and high temperature of 7 above zero is likely to be the warm spot in a lengthy cold spell. The rest of the week promises continued cold through the end of the year. Friday and Saturday nights may again see the overnight lows dropping to near 20 below zero without considering the wind chill factor. Highs for the rest of the week are likely to be below zero or near it.

The high on New Year's Day may top out at 4 degrees. The anticipated cold creates another imperative for designated drivers for New Year's Eve revelers.

The National Weather Service in Duluth reported frigid temperatures and cold wind chill values will continue through much of the upcoming week, with wind chill values fluctuating between 20 and 40 below zero. Steve Gohde, observation program leader at the weather service in Duluth, checked multiple models to see how long this cold weather may last. He said the models indicate another week of cold before temperatures moderate into the low 20s for highs. This week will remain cold, with more frigid temperatures arriving for the weekend. On the plus side the cold temperatures are helping to create lake ice after a spate of incidents where all-terrain vehicles or snowmobiles broke through the ice. And Gohde said the temperature extremes possible this time of year for lows in the 30 below even 40 below range are not expected. Instead the temperatures are not expected to fluctuate greatly between the day's highs and the overnight lows. In addition, Gohde noted the wind gusts are not expected to be as much a factor as they were on Christmas Day.

Whether this cold in late December bodes ill for what a traditionally cold January may bring is too soon to tell, Gohde said.

He noted the path of the high amplitude jet stream waves, also part of the persistent hot and dry conditions fostering the fires in California, has Minnesota on the down side of a ridge pushing through Alaska. Gohde said the result is bringing the wind direction straight from the north, dragging winds from the North Pole.

With these temperatures and through this holiday week, Gohde said it's really about looking out for each other. Last week, the Climate Prediction Center released an updated three-month outlook with a probability for colder than normal temperatures for January, February and March with continued expectation for above average precipitation.

And this upcoming New Year's Day will be a different experience than ringing in 2017. The first day in 2017 reached 25 degrees and never dropped below zero overnight. The coldest New Year's Day here on record dropped to 38 degrees below in 1979.

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