It doesn't happen often, but when temperatures and weather go to the extremes we're about to see, the governor of Minnesota can step in and shut down schools across the entire state.
Former Gov. Arne Carlson did it in 1994, 1996 and 1997, all due to extremely cold temperatures and wind chills, much like those forecast to put the entire state in a deep freeze Tuesday-Thursday this week.
More recently, former Gov. Mark Dayton closed schools statewide on Jan. 6, 2014.
What were the temperatures in the Twin Cities on those four historic days?
Jan. 18, 1994: According to the Minnesota State Climatology Office, it was 26 below zero in the Twin Cities that morning with a wind chill of -48.
Feb. 2, 1996: It was the coldest day in Twin Cities history with a record low of -34 and the daytime high only reached 17 below zero. It was Friday, and interestingly, temps were nearly as cold (-12 high, -27 low) the day before but Gov. Carlson didn't call off school.
The wind chill dipped to -48 in the Twin Cities.
The air temperature fell to -60 in Tower, Minnesota, which still stands as the all-time state record.
Jan. 16, 1997: The high in the Twin Cities was actually 2 degrees but with a morning low of negative 8 and gusty winds, the wind chill dropped to -32, according to the state climate office.
Jan. 6, 2014: The high was negative 12 in the Twin Cities with a low of 23 below zero. The climate office notes that the wind chill dipped to -48 in the metro area that morning, and it was even worse further north with wind chill values of -50 to -63.
Wind chill expected to reach -50 this week
It's going to be extremely cold Tuesday-Thursday this week and the National Weather Service is forecasting wind chills of 35 to 50 below zero in the Twins – even colder in greater Minnesota – from about 9 a.m. Tuesday all the way to 9 a.m. Thursday, with the most frigid conditions coming Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.
So, will Gov. Walz join Carlson and Dayton and call off school for the entire state? He's at least thinking about his options.
“I really trust local officials and superintendents and folks to make these decisions," Walz said when speaking with media Friday, via the Brainerd Dispatch. "We’ll certainly see when it’s the proper role. We always make these decisions based on the safety of our children, the safety of people on the roads but also understanding what are the implications of when you do that ... We'll explore it."
School districts have varying cold-weather criteria
School districts tend to have their own severe winter weather criteria for when to close schools. Here are a handful, but if you're curious about your district then you should be able to find it on their website.
Minneapolis Public Schools: "MPS will likely cancel classes if the wind chill forecast for 6:30 a.m. the following day is -35° or colder, with winds of at least 5 to 10 miles per hour".
St. Paul: School will be canceled if the forecast for 6 a.m. has an air temp below -25 or a wind chill of -35.
Anoka-Hennepin: "If the National Weather Service issues a "wind chill warning" stating that exposed skin can become frostbitten in less than 15 minutes, then the district will likely make a decision to close."
Osseo Area Schools: "If the National Weather Service predicts the wind chill to remain at or drop below -35ºF (below zero), school may be cancelled."
Rosemount-Apple Valley-Eagan District 196: Cold weather cancellations are made by 6:30 p.m. the night before and are based on the National Weather Service forecasting an air temp of at least 25 below zero or a wind chill of 35 below zero at 6 a.m.