NWS issues wind chill warning for Wednesday

The Fort Ripley area experienced some ice-jam flooding Sunday, Dec. 15, after the Mississippi crested at 10.7 feet.

People gather around a bonfire to stay warm, roast marshmallows for s'mores and drink cocoa Saturday, Dec. 14, at Trailside Park as part of the Santa's Bobbin' Into Town event in Pequot Lakes. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Buffeted by some stiff gusts, the Brainerd lakes area could experience wind chill lows as deep as 35 degrees below zero the morning of Wednesday, Dec. 18, according to a hazardous weather warning by the National Weather Service.

Heralded by Canadian winds, Wednesday’s freeze comes amid a temperature downturn this week, said Dean Melde, a meteorologist at the Duluth office of the National Weather Service. Highs should hover around 8-12 degrees this week, compared to the year-by-year average of 23 degrees for a high and 6 degrees for a low the region typically sees in mid-December.

While Wednesday morning may see a significant dip, low temperatures during the night are likely to stand around 10-15 degrees below zero.

While 35 below zero is formidable, it doesn’t stack up all that high compared to recent years and all-time records for Dec. 18, Melde said, when wind chill has factored in temperatures hovering around 50-60 below zero.

Temperatures are likely to see an uptick going into the final week before Christmas Day, Dec. 25, Melde noted, while the lakes area shouldn’t see any significant storms or other strong weather events in the meantime. In a gradual warm spell, temperatures should creep north of 20 degrees, he added, with temps in the 25-30 degree range by this coming weekend.


Melde noted that — especially in the back portion of a mid-range two week forecast — general weather calculations are usually solid, but it can be difficult to pinpoint particulars this far out like the amount of precipitation, exact temperatures or the small-scale weather patterns.

“We’re not going to see any storms,” Melde told the Dispatch during a phone interview Sunday, Dec. 15. “Don’t get me wrong, it’s still pretty cold, but it’s nothing too unusual. That doesn't mean we’re going to get no snow, or no precipitation, but we’re not seeing anything at this point of anything really significant — at least through Christmas.”

Ice-jam flooding

The Fort Ripley area — no stranger to flooding during the spring thaw every year — had an ice-jam flooding warning Sunday afternoon. Melde said the Mississippi River crested at 10.7 feet and was maintaining flood levels as of early Sunday evening.

Melde noted the flooding threshold stands at 10.5 feet, while the Mississippi crested at 10.3 feet during a spring thaw runoff May 23, 2015, in that area.

Describing flooding risks as “minor,” Melde noted the propensity of whatever water accumulation occurs will happen near the Mississippi River and in nearby lowlands, which poses a small risk to nearby persons and properties.

“It’s usually pretty minor at these levels,” Melde said. “Ice-jam flooding can be a little more difficult to predict because it acts different. We are expecting it to go down over the next day or so, but we’re keeping an eye on it because it is a little bit elevated. We’re waiting for it to loosen up and for the water to work its way through.”

Ice-jam flooding is an uncommon, but still regular phenomenon along rivers in northern states during the winter months that occurs when ice builds up in a narrow or bend in the river naturally dams the water, which rises and spreads into surrounding areas. Ice jam flooding contrasts with spring thaw runoff when the sheer amount of rapidly melting ice and snow overloads the river basin.

GABRIEL LAGARDE may be reached at or 218-855-5859. Follow at

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