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Minnesota still doggone cold, but warm-up on the way


Monday was a day of broken pipes, black ice, and frosty ... well, anything that was outside was probably frosted over.

Expect no immediate change on Tuesday, with many Minnesota schools still closed amid dangerously cold wind chills across the state, but the light at the end of our very cold tunnel is drawing near.

A warm-up is coming soon – the end of the week could feel tropical compared to the start of it. "Gradually, we are easing out of the ice box," KARE 11's Pat Evans says. KARE forecasts a high of 28 degrees Saturday and 32 Sunday for the metro.

High temperatures will hit 25 to 30 degrees even in parts of northern Minnesota, including Duluth, Hibbing and International Falls, the National Weather Service says.

The warm-up could be short-lived, with more bitter cold likely next week, the Star Tribune reports.

Meanwhile, early Tuesday morning it was minus-14 degrees in the Twin Cities, minus-26 in International Falls, minus-16 in Bemidji and minus-14 in Rochester.

The National Weather Service melds the alarming and the blasé with a headline on its wind chill warning telling us that a "historic and life-threatening cold outbreak continues" on Tuesday. The warning applies through noon and it comes a day after temperatures fell to minus-23 degrees in the Twin Cities and to more than 30 below in northeastern Minnesota. The Weather Service in Duluth says the Grand Marais airport recorded the coldest wind chill of the day at 63 below.

Few records fell Monday, even though it was the coldest it has been in years. It was minus-23 degrees at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Monday morning, so the record of minus-27 degrees in 1912 still stands, MPR's Updraft blog reports. It was coldest Monday in Babbitt and Brimson at minus-40 degrees, MPR notes. (The coldest days yet this winter were Jan. 2 and 3, with minus-46 degrees in Embarrass.)

So how did Minnesota handle Monday, the coldest day in a decade or more?

There were some rough spots. One occurred in downtown St. Paul, where one of the state's public health labs lost heat, leading to water leaks that damaged equipment used by both the health and agriculture departments. The Pioneer Press reports the damage may exceed $1 million.

For many – including virtually all of the state's schoolchildren – cancellations rendered the morning commute unnecessary. As for Tuesday, state officials allowed local districts to make the call on whether to resume classes. Anoka-Hennepin, Minneapolis, St. Paul, and Duluth are among many that opted to keep schools closed for a second day. Fargo and Moorhead are among those where schools will be open. Some districts are planning late starts.

For emergency workers there are no snow days or cold days. And some of them are even busier than usual when the thermometer gets this far from zero. Utility workers, state troopers and farmers are among those toiling in the bitter cold. A few vehicle issues slowed the swift, appointed rounds of postal workers in St. Cloud, but the mail went through, the St. Cloud Times reports.

Those who repair overworked furnaces and heating systems are busy. WCCO reports Centerpoint Energy tripled the number of staff on duty to cope with the spike in service calls. The owner of a small furnace repair company said his calls double at this temperature.

Likewise, firefighters responded to a surge in broken water pipes and accidents on streets made slick by black ice. St. Paul Fire Marshall Steve Zaccard explained to the Pioneer Press that vehicle exhaust freezing as it hits the street changes conditions instantly.

"Pavement could be dry one moment and slippery the next," he told the paper.

Another essential person on these cold days is the person who trudges out to the thermometer in whichever of those northeastern Minnesota towns has the day's lowest temperature. In Embarrass, that's Roland Fowler, a trained weather spotter for the National Weather Service, according to MPR News. On Monday, it read minus 37.

There are also some compelled by honor to venture out into the cold. Such is the case with the honor guard at Ft. Snelling. WCCO reported that at noon, in minus 17 degree temperatures, cemetery staff and 23 member of the "Monday Squad" conducted formal burials for 16 veterans. Even the two buglers played "Taps" without missing a note.

Then again, there are some people who probably really don't need to be standing out in the cold but do it anyway, perhaps because they work for a television news network that thinks sending a reporter from California into some of Minnesota's most frigid air in years helps tell the story. We're looking at you, CNN, or City Pages is, as it takes note of some backlash against the network for "torturing" the reporter featured live throughout the day.

BringMeTheNews posted tips from around the country to help protect those who rely on their owners to keep them warm and safe. Pets need their humans to protect them from frostbite and carbon monoxide.

The Duluth News Tribune has the story of Tuesday's special election to replace a St. Louis County commissioner who died last summer. It's the only race on the ballot, and there are only two candidates. And it was too cold to door knock Monday. Turnout is expected to be low.

Finally, the Associated Press mentioned a local pizza restaurant in a national story about the cold. Jersey Devil Pizza and Wings in the Minneapolis skyway caught the A.P.'s attention because it was closed Monday, despite its protected location. A sign on the door read, "Apologies ... We are East Coast wimps. Too cold! Stay safe, see you Tuesday." On their Facebook page, the owners said they were embarrassed by the publicity, but hoped it would do them good.

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