All public schools in Minnesota will be closed Monday due to unusually cold temperatures.
Gov. Mark Dayton issued the order Friday, saying the safety of school children is the state's first priority. "I encourage Minnesotans of all ages to exercise caution in these extreme weather conditions,” he says in a statement.
It is the first time a Minnesota governor has closed schools statewide due to weather since 1997. State law allows the governor to “authorize the commissioner of education to alter school schedules, curtail school activities, or order schools closed.”
The decision was made Friday in an effort to give school staffs and parents time to prepare, the governor says. Monday could be the coldest day the state has seen in nine years, MPR News reported.
For the most part the governor's decision has been well received by school officials. The Star Tribune reports many of the local school officials were already contemplating the same thing.
Bloomington public schools spokesman, Rick Kaufman told the Star Tribune, "When you're talking about a windchill of 30 to 40 degrees below zero, you just don't want kids outside."
WCCO meteorologist Chris Shaffer says the cold front starting Sunday will be reminiscent of 1996. On Feb. 2 that year, then-Gov. Arne Carlson ordered all schools closed in the state when the high only reached 17 below zero – the lowest high temperature ever in Minnesota history, WCCO says. Overnight lows could reach 19 below in the Twin Cities area overnight Sunday, Shaffer says.
KSTP meteorologist Dave Dahl's forecast is even more dire than Shaffer's: Dahl is saying the low will be around 24 below zero in the metro area overnight Sunday.
For much of December, Minnesota has dealt with extremely cold temperatures, but the cold will reach new levels next week.
MPR News' Paul Huttner predicts temperatures of 40 to 50 below zero for much of northern Minnesota, while across the Twin Cities and southern Minnesota temperatures should bottom out between 20 and 25 below on Monday morning, and near 20 below again Tuesday morning.
Huttner calls it "barbaric cold," and notes Sunday-Tuesday will likely be the coldest three days of the winter.
Huttner says the reason for the extreme cold is the dreaded "polar vortex." The Polar Vortex is a big, swirling low pressure bomb in the upper atmosphere. It is the core of the coldest air in the northern hemisphere. That vortex has been over Hudson's Bay in Canada for most of December but that is swirling south into Minnesota this weekend.
Along with the bitterly cold temperatures will come some dangerously cold wind chills. The National Weather Service is predicting wind chills more than 50 below zero across much of Minnesota.
The Pioneer Press reports the average temperature for the Twin Cities in December was 12.4 degrees. There were 11 days below zero – more than the 9 days below zero all of last winter.
It probably shouldn't come as a surprise that travel agents across the state are reporting a boom in business. KSTP reports many Minnesotans are booking vacations to get out of the cold. Nora Blum of Travel Leaders in Blaine told KSTP, "We have many clients coming in just asking to get out of the cold ... they don't even care where they are going."