Arctic weather is becoming one big headache for Brainerd lakes area residents.
Schools closed Monday, keeping children inside and giving them cabin fever. Some schools, including Brainerd and Crosby, have been off since 3 p.m. Dec. 20. As of 4 p.m. Monday, Brainerd, Crosby, Pillager and Pequot Lakes schools were also closing for Tuesday and Little Falls School was scheduled to be two hours late.
Few escaped the cold. People experienced trouble getting their vehicles started and some couldn’t get their garage doors to open. There also were reports of water pipes freezing.
Wendy’s Restaurant in Brainerd had their water service line break Saturday night. The water line is located on the east side of Wendy’s on Northwest Fifth Street and caused an icy mess on the street. Brainerd Engineer Jeff Hulsether said the frigid temperatures made it tough to repair the water service line that serves water to the restaurant. Hulsether said city crews, including Brainerd Public Utilities (BPU), planned to direct the water flow to the storm sewer basin temporarily until the arctic temperatures were gone. Hulsether said it is a small 1-inch line so city crews will be able to monitor the line easily in the next two days.
BPU Superintendent Scott Magnuson said the plan then is to shut the water off Wednesday night when temperatures are expected to be warmer and then permanently fix the water service line.
“It’s brutal working in this stuff,” said Magnuson.
Bob Sullivan, owner of Wendy’s, said the restaurant is open for business and they do have water.
“If it was warmer out, they could have stopped the water right away,” Sullivan said while sitting in his running vehicle in the parking lot as city crews worked.
Magnuson said BPU crews were also working on a water line that froze at a residence in Southwest Brainerd.
And then there were the people who had no where warm to go. The Brainerd Salvation Army opened up its doors around-the-clock starting Saturday, according to Bill Lakin, director of the organization’s disaster team for the past 28 years. Tom Isle, another volunteer, worked with him over the weekend at the Salvation Army office on Front Street.
“It was more of an insurance policy for the community,” Lakin said of the refuge for people who had potential heating problems, frozen pipes or auto troubles.
Lakin said that by Monday afternoon the Salvation Army had helped five people, including one person who was put up in a motel. Another man, in his mid-20s, waited there after car problems while his mother drove to Brainerd to pick him up, according to Lakin. The word was spread about the open door policy during the siege of cold weather to law enforcement, the media, convenience stores and Mickey’s Pizza, which also serves as a bus stop.
Those who took advantage of the Salvation Army’s generosity found sandwiches, cereal, coffee, hot chocolate and hot dishes, depending upon the time of day they dropped by the building.
Meanwhile, plumbing and heating professionals were kept busy with emergency calls relating to the extended cold weather and its effect on water pipes and furnaces.
Jenny Kielbauch, administrative assistant for Pike Plumbing and Heating, said that by mid-day the firm had received about four furnace and four water calls — all cold weather related. The calls ranged from complaints of no heat to frozen water lines and toilets.
“Most of them we’ve gotten to,” she said.
Jeff Fitch, general manager of D & D Plumbing and Heating, said Monday afternoon his firm had received more than 50 calls in the previous 48 to 72 hours. Usually, he said, during a 48 hour period they don’t receive 25 calls a day.
He urged home and building owners to be cautious about potential carbon monoxide poisoning in this time of year. Sometimes a malfunctioning furnace can be a warning sign of a potential carbon monoxide problem. Fitch said the furnace burners should burn “nice and blue.”
The Brainerd area’s extended cold snap has been particularly taxing on furnaces and water/septic systems, Fitch said.
And the cold snap is not yet done. The National Weather Service (NWS) has the Brainerd lakes area in a wind chill warning until noon Tuesday. NWS predicts widespread dangerously cold wind chills of 45 to 55 degrees below zero across northeast Minnesota that’s expected to continue through Tuesday morning. There also could be isolated locations that reach wind chills around 60 degrees below zero.
Wind chills are expected to improve by Tuesday afternoon, with wind chills of 25 to 40 degrees below zero through Wednesday.
The coldest wind chill values Monday morning, where the NWS calculated the temperatures and wind reports, showed Little Falls with a wind chill 46 degrees below zero at 11:05 a.m. Monday and one mile east of St. Cloud at 50 degrees below zero.
The city with the coldest wind chill report was near Alexandria, at 56 degrees below zero wind chill at 10:30 a.m. Monday.
The forecast for Brainerd shows wind chill values of 40-50 below zero Monday night with wind chills improving to 25-35 below zero Tuesday. Wednesday will continue to be cold with wind chill values of 30-40 below zero.
Thursday Brainerd residents will see a high near 12 and Friday’s high is expected to be 28 degrees; and that’s above zero.