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Blizzard warning posted for southeastern Minnesota

Winter Weather Minnesota
A runner jogs around Lake Calhoun on Wednesday in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Elizabeth Flores)

Earlier-than-expected snowfall, combined with strong winds, led a half dozen schools west of Rochester to cancel classes for the day after having opened at their usual times.

As of 9:30 a.m., Rochester public schools hadn't announced an early release.

For the latest information about school closings and delays, see  www.postbulletin.com/closings .

On Wednesday, hardy Minnesota residents bundled to deal with the cold snap.

After a mild December, winter returned in full force this week as Arctic air settled over the state. The National Weather Service reports the Grand Marais airport recorded a wind chill reading of 54 degrees below zero, while it was 36 below in Rochester.


And residents are bracing for more. This afternoon, a combination of snowfall and high winds were expected to create a slippery commute in southern Minnesota. Today's high in Rochester was expected to be 14 degrees, but it will only be 1 degree on Friday.

Minnesota saw closed schools, people hauling out parkas and mittens, and frostbite cases in what is typically the coldest time of the year.

Some large districts such as Rochester, Minneapolis and Anoka-Hennepin were closed Wednesday, but public schools in St. Paul remained open. Hundreds of schools across Minnesota called off classes. Alexandria, Hastings, Mankato (public and private), Paynesville and Zumbrota-Mazeppa were among districts closing for the day.

In downtown Minneapolis, where the midmorning wind chill was 30 below, people bundled up.

Tom Goeman, 64, of Hopkins, was dressed in a furry-hooded parka as he waited for a light-rail train to take him to the VA Medical Center.

"It's not bad. As long as it's not too windy, it's actually not too bad at all," Goeman said.

His wardrobe suggestion? "Heavy coat, scarf, mittens, long johns. You just get used to it," he said.

College student Jordan Harrell, 23, of Roseville wore a stocking cap and pulled his coat up around his neck (he was missing his scarf) as he walked to work in downtown Minneapolis.


"I have wool socks on, so that's nice. And that's basically how I prepare. And then, you know, just have a tough mentality. It's a Minnesota tough mentality," Harrell said.

While frostbite can happen eventually at any temperature below freezing, Dr. Ryan Fey at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis said there's a "significant uptick" when temperatures or wind chills dip to 10 below zero. At those temperatures it typically takes about 30 minutes of exposure to cause significant injuries, he said.

But when temperatures or wind chills plunge to mid-30s below to 50 below, Fey added, serious injuries can happen in 10 minutes or less.

Wind chills of -30 to -40 were common across a large part of the state on Wednesday morning, according to the National Weather Service. They bottomed out at -34 in Minneapolis and St. Paul, and at -54 at Grand Marais.

Fey stressed that frostbite can occur more quickly in some circumstances. Wet gloves, socks or boots speed up the process. So do medical conditions that cause poor blood circulation. Smoking also raises the risk. And the thinner skin of elderly people and young children is also more vulnerable, he said. Touching cold surfaces can raise the risk, too.

"If they have burning, tingling, if they have pain, if their fingers and toes are starting to go numb, it's time to come in," Fey said.

In the Twin Cities, heated transit shelters give riders some relief. All 37 of Metro Transit's light rail stations have heated waiting areas, and more than 50 of its 800 or so bus shelters are heated.

Most of the light rail shelters have glass panels to the rear and sides but are open at the front. Passengers can turn on heaters when the temperature is 40 degrees or below, Metro Transit spokesman Howie Padilla said.


"In Minnesota, you need some heat," Padilla said. "You need to give folks some comfort."

To be considered for heaters, a stop must have at least 80 passenger boardings per day. But at $10,000 to $60,000, the heaters aren't cheap, MPR reported.

And some riders say the heaters don't make that much of a difference.

At the light rail stop at Cedar Avenue and 5th Street in St. Paul earlier this week, some stood under the dual 1600-watt electric heaters deployed in waiting areas. But the warmth wasn't enough for Darryal Akins.

"They don't work. It's cold," he said. "If I turn my face up, I can get it. But that's it."

Rochester schools cancel after-school activities

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