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Blizzard-like conditions in south-central Minnesota; bitter cold settles in

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Arctic air is making itself at home Minnesota Wednesday, bringing another stretch of very cold temperatures. A wind chill advisory is in effect overnight for much of Minnesota through 11 a.m Wednesday.

And it gets worse: Drivers are urged to use caution through the day Wednesday in much of south-central Minnesota, where a blizzard warning is in effect in 21 counties, which include the cities of Alexandria, St. Cloud, Willmar, Mankato and Albert Lea. The warning region stretches to areas just west of the Twin Cities metro.

Strong winds will make travel conditions difficult or impossible, the National Weather Service. Wind gusts of 50 mph will bring widespread blowing and drifting snow, with some drifts exceeding 3 feet in open areas, and officials are warning of whiteout conditions:

High temperatures should reach the upper teens on Wednesday in the metro, but on Thursday highs will drop back to about zero. Wind chill readings will be well below zero on Wednesday night; the air temperature will sink to 15 below zero in the metro by early Thursday morning; 24 below zero in Ely and 12 below in Redwood Falls, WCCO reports.

There is no warm-up in the immediate forecast. High temperatures are not likely to creep out of the single digits through the weekend anywhere in the state.

The return of the deep freeze has been frustrating for motorists, struggling on ice-plated highways and rutted and pothole-pocked streets.

This probably won't come as a surprise, either, but this winter is the coldest one in 35 years in the area, according to records from the National Weather Service. It'll most likely end up as the 10th coldest winter in the Twin Cities, the fourth coldest in St. Cloud, and the third coldest in Eau Claire, compared to records dating back to the late 1800s. This is the coldest winter since 1978-1979 (35 years) in all three locations.

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