A deep freeze that’s brought life-threatening wind chills, prolonged subzero temperatures and record-breaking lows isn’t over yet.

The National Weather Service in Duluth warned Sunday, Feb. 14, to expect the dangerous cold to linger into Tuesday morning as it issued a wind chill warning for the entirety of the Northland region. Arctic temperatures are impacting residents across the central United States, with temperatures ranging between 25 and 50 degrees colder than normal for mid-February, the weather service stated.

RELATED: From icy Texas to snowy Seattle, frigid weather blankets huge swath of U.S.

The coldest wind chills were expected overnight Sunday into Monday, making it feel like anywhere between 35 to 50 degrees below zero. Brainerd was expected to experience a wind chill of 38 below, with the air temperature remaining below zero before finally exceeding that threshold into the single digits above sometime Tuesday.

While much of this winter brought average to above-average temperatures, the last week's extreme cold was well below the normal temperature range. Graph / National Weather Service
While much of this winter brought average to above-average temperatures, the last week's extreme cold was well below the normal temperature range. Graph / National Weather Service

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The February cold snap broke a number of records thus far in the Brainerd area, according to the weather service. With the temperature topping out at 6 below Friday, that date went into the history books as the lowest high on record. The temperature again reached 6 degrees below Saturday before beginning the descent back into the double digits below zero, setting two records — the lowest high and the lowest low. Temperatures plunged to 34 below zero in the early morning hours Saturday, matching the lowest recorded temperature for Feb. 13, first recorded in 1916.

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Valentine’s Day also appeared bound for the record books with a third straight day of weather no warmer than 6 degrees below zero, according to weather observations at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport. Before Sunday, the record lowest high sat at 5 below, set in 1930. The lowest temperature on the holiday occurred in 1922, when it sunk to 35 degrees below zero.

In a typical February, the normal highs hover just below freezing at 26 degrees, with overnight lows remaining in positive territory. Two recent years even saw temperatures soar toward the 50s: Feb. 13, 2011, reached 49 degrees, while Feb. 11-12, 2005, achieved similar heights at 48 and 50 degrees.

Record cold temperatures occurred Saturday, Feb. 13. Graphic / National Weather Service
Record cold temperatures occurred Saturday, Feb. 13. Graphic / National Weather Service

While those high temps aren’t on the immediate horizon, it seems the lakes area is headed for more seasonable weather by this weekend. Saturday is expected to reach 22 degrees, with Sunday’s forecast calling for a high of 31 degrees. And the long-range forecast predicts by the following week beginning Feb. 22, the region will begin to see above-normal temperatures as the slow march toward spring begins, said Ketzel Levens, meteorologist at the Duluth office.

“We’re seeing some pretty good above-average temps for the next two weeks,” Levens said. “The March/April time frame can swing back and be a little wintry, but we’re not necessarily seeing signs of that at this time.”

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Levens said a subzero cold snap isn’t unusual for north-central Minnesota, although with records entering the books in recent days, the timing this late into the winter season is out of the norm.

“Sometimes it happens in January and maybe we’re all a little more ready for it then. But we’re somewhat unique in just how deep of a freeze we’ve gone into,” she said, noting the Ely weather station recorded an air temperature at 50 below zero early Sunday.

Graphic / National Weather Service
Graphic / National Weather Service

The cold temperatures continued to ward off precipitation, and while some areas of southern Wisconsin have seen above-average snowfall, the Arrowhead and north-central Minnesota are well below average. Snow depth as of Saturday was just 12 inches in the Brainerd area and a significant portion of the region is in a moderate drought.

Levens said this is good news for the spring flooding forecast but raises concerns about the upcoming fire season.

RELATED: Wildfire season is here, burning restrictions in place

“When you get into the moderate drought index, which is what some parts of the Arrowhead and northwestern Minnesota are, that is when we do start to look toward spring and think we’re going to have some fire concerns,” she said.

Adding fuel to the fire risk this spring, Levens said, is the fact prescribed burning didn’t happen at typical levels last spring in an effort to reduce fire responses in the coronavirus pandemic. This means there is likely more brush to burn.

Temperature records

A number of temperature records fell this weekend with the frigid weather. Here’s a look at what’s in the books for Feb. 12-14.

Feb. 12

  • High: 50 degrees, 2005.

  • Lowest high: 6 degrees below zero, 2021.

  • Highest low: 32 degrees, 1984.

  • Low: 38 degrees below zero, 1981.

Feb. 13

  • High: 49 degrees, 2011.

  • Lowest high: 6 degrees below zero, 2021.

  • Highest low: 32 degrees, 1984.

  • Low: 34 degrees below zero, 2021 and 1916.

Feb. 14

  • High: 45 degrees, 2002.

  • Lowest high: 5 degrees below zero, 1930 (unofficially, the record was broken Sunday with 6 below).

  • Highest low: 32 degrees, 2011.

  • Low: 35 degrees below zero, 1922.



CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey.