Bitter cold is arriving with light snow and gusty winds.

But on the positive side, the cold shouldn’t stick around like some mid-winter crushers, where it lingers for days on end. While clear sunny skies have been in short supply, the days are getting longer. Spring is little more than a month away, meaning the ice that has plagued this winter can number its days.

But before thoughts of spring can intercede, there is the cold front bringing dangerously cold wind chills Wednesday, Feb. 12, into Thursday that can cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes. The cold wind chills are expected across the entire upper Midwest Thursday and Friday, the National Weather Service reported.

The “arctic front will arrive late tonight into Wednesday morning bringing light snow to much of the northland,” the National Weather Service in Duluth reported Tuesday.

In the Brainerd area, the forecast calls for snow arriving about 3-5 a.m. Wednesday with a morning temperature of about 21 degrees. Snow is expected to continue Wednesday morning, mostly before 11 a.m. Expect gusty winds to make an impact on the prediction for 1-3 inches of snow with this system. Winds may gust as high as 30 mph and wind chills as cold as 40 degrees below across the seven county area.

The weather service is calling for a rapid change in temperature, with the thermometer falling to zero by 5 p.m. and continuing to plummet to an air temperature of 23 below. Flurries may continue into the night. Expect wind chill values of 25 degrees below to 35 degrees below. The cold snap should continue into Thursday. While the sun is expected to return, its impact will be negated by a high of zero and continued wind chills of 25 below to 35 below. The air temperature Thursday night may bottom out at 19 degrees below.

Before the cold deepens Wednesday, the blowing snow is expected to make for difficult travel conditions, particularly in open areas.

A blizzard warning stretches along the state’s western border and expands across southwestern Minnesota, including the cities of Marshall, Morris and Fergus Falls. The blizzard warning is in effect from 5 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday.

Other parts of the state, including Todd, Wadena, Morrison and Mille Lacs counties, were issued a special weather statement to watch for the rapid drop in temperatures, black ice and blowing snow, particularly for areas of the state with significant snowfall from Sunday’s storm, which didn’t reach the Brainerd lakes area.

“An arctic front will surge southward across western, central, southern Minnesota, as well as west central Wisconsin on Wednesday,” the National Weather Service in Chanhassen reported. “This front will be accompanied by light snow. Once the front moves through your area, expect a rapid drop in temperatures in an hour or two. These rapidly falling temperatures could lead

to a flash freeze on area roadways.

“This is a condition where a small amount of snow that melted prior to fronts arrival, or water, will quickly freeze and cause black ice to form. In addition, strong northwest winds will develop behind this front leading to significant blowing and drifting snow, especially in areas that received heavy snowfall on Sunday.”

To stay warm, the weather service winter chill safety tips include dressing in layers to trap air and help provide insulation, wearing a hat and gloves/mittens, staying dry and wearing waterproof insulated boots, and minimizing exposure to the wind.

With wind chill, the wind and cold combine to carry heat away from the body, the weather service noted, which can cause frostbite and hypothermia. Animals also need protection from the cold and wind.

Warmer for Valentine’s Day and President’s Day

A temperature rebound should arrive Friday with a high of 14 degrees on a breezy but sunny day. A chance of snow showers is back in the forecast by Friday night into Saturday. Though Saturday should be warmer yet as temperatures are anticipated to be back to nearly 30 degrees.

For Monday, President’s Day, high temperatures should be near 30 degrees and in the upper 20s into Tuesday. The normal high for this time of year is 26 degrees. That warming trend, with longer days and a calendar inexorably moving toward spring, has the normal high at 32 degrees by month’s end.

Winter’s grip

January had 15 days with temperatures warmer than average, including nine of those with temperatures that were 12 degrees to nearly 21 degrees warmer. December had 12 days with temperatures colder than average — with six of those days 10.5 degrees to nearly 24 degrees colder. Winter’s cold grip was in the early part of December and followed on the heels of a notably colder than normal November.

But that changed about mid-month.

After Dec. 20 a warmup — with temperatures ranging from 33 degrees to 40 degrees for a high — dominated the rest of the month. The second half of December posted an above average high each day, from about 4 degrees warmer to nearly 25 degrees warmer, based on National Weather Service records.

Highs so far in February ranged from 18 degrees to 45 degrees on Feb. 2 and five other days in this young month reaching at least 30 degrees.