Car CPR: Near record-setting cold of 43 below hammers vehicles, residents. Low wind chills of 30 below continue through Friday morning, Feb. 1
It's been something of a game of mercury limbo for thermometers in the lakes area and--what's more--while temperatures are hovering near historic levels, the forecast looks to show a nearly bipolar shift in weather from frigid to relatively warm,...
It's been something of a game of mercury limbo for thermometers in the lakes area and-what's more-while temperatures are hovering near historic levels, the forecast looks to show a nearly bipolar shift in weather from frigid to relatively warm, then back to frigid.
That's the lowdown from Steve Gohde, the observation program leader at the National Weather Service office in Duluth. In Brainerd, people-from first responders to tow truckers to pizza drivers, as well as the average Joe-are battling the elements, often armed with a pair of jumper cables in hand.
Gohde said Brainerd reached a low at 43 degrees below zero Thursday, Jan. 31, the lowest temperature since 1996 and 4 degrees shy of setting a new record low for the date.
Thursday's temperature variance was imposing, Gohde noted-ranging from a high of 5 degrees below zero, to 43 below, or a 28-degree split in just 24 hours. Wednesday, while not as impressive in terms of its lowest temperature, made up for it with a record-setting 16 degrees below zero as its highest daytime temperature. The temp shattered the previous 132-year-old record by 5 degrees, in place since Jan. 30, 1887.
On Wednesday alone, West Brainerd Auto fielded between 300 to 350 calls-for towing, jumps or other forms of roadside assistance-per towing manager Harry Ruikka. West Brainerd serves as one of the primary towing companies in the Brainerd lakes area, as well as a contractor with AAA-which reported in a recorded phone message it was limiting calls Wednesday to stranded motorists and emergencies. Ruikka said employees have been working, pretty much continuously, since 8 a.m. Tuesday.
"We're handling it, let me put it that way," said Ruikka with a chuckle.
In contrast, health care providers are seeing fewer cases of slips and falls, hypothermia or frostbite-typical fare for arctic conditions-than they may have anticipated coming into this week, said Steven Palmer, a physician assistant in the emergency care department at Essentia Health-St. Joseph's Medical Center in Brainerd.
Sure, there's the occasional person who didn't wear gloves when they handled metal equipment, the occasional soul who slipped on an icy sidewalk, or a bevy of people that needed to be warmed up after spending too much time outside in the chill-but they haven't seen much in the way of incidents that require care during the frigid spell from Tuesday to Thursday, Palmer said.
"Comparatively, for what we could have seen, it was pretty benign," Palmer said. "Even here, people have a line that they won't cross when it comes to cold temperatures. I think that most people are smart enough to recognize that it's a whole different animal when it's minus 54 with wind chill."
In other news, the U.S. Postal Service reopened all its locations in Minnesota and resumed services Thursday after conditions prompted the national mail carrier to suspend deliveries for Wednesday.
While it's been a brutal stretch of lows during this polar vortex, the immediate forecast stands in stark contrast-highs above zero of 28 and 34 predicted for Saturday and Sunday respectively, while the lakes area failed to crest zero degrees in nearly a week. That's a 77-degree difference between Thursday and Sunday, by the way.
"We have a very deep trough and then you'll have another system coming in and it will be pulling up warm air from the south," said Gohde, who noted it's common to see these conflicting systems fall in line, one after another. "There's always been that little bit of whiplash. Often times you'll have a dramatic warmup after you have a dramatic cool down. It's just a function of the jet stream and Mother Nature, I think, likes to maintain a balance."
But, Gohde cautioned, people should be careful of these balmy conditions, as precipitation-in the form of slushy snow, sleet or freezing rain-looks to coat the area in slick ice once it cools down for another, if lesser cold snap next week. By Thursday, Feb. 7, temperatures could hover as low as 30 degrees below zero.
Opening the record books
Coldest days on record for the Brainerd area between Jan. 27 and Feb. 2, courtesy of the National Weather Service office in Duluth. Wind chill factors, where available.
• Jan. 27. On this day in 1976, it plummeted to 34 degrees below zero.
• For Jan. 28, it reached 36 degrees below zero in 1966.
• It reached a low of 38 degrees below zero in 1965, setting an all-time low for Jan. 29.
• On Jan. 30, it reached 40 degrees below zero in 1996-the first of a string of frigid depths set during that year. It fell to about 57 below zero, with wind chill factored in.
• 1996 rears its head again-this time for Jan. 31, when it reached 46 degrees below zero. With wind chill factored, it felt like 52 degrees below zero.
• Then 52 degrees below zero-set on Feb. 1, 1996, as an all-time low. That stands at about 65 below zero with wind chill factored.
• Feb. 2, 1996, looms large in the record books with a 54 below zero standing temperature set in Brainerd-the lowest since records were kept in 1899 and onward. With 7 mph winds factored in, it stands at 66 degrees below zero.
• In addition, the coldest wind chill on record goes to Jan. 19, 1985, when the lakes area registered a wind chill with 59 degrees below zero.