Subzero temperatures and eye-watering wind chills are shocking Minnesotans who have been softened by a string of three mild winters.
"It's a real Minnesota winter," said Matt Davis, a forecaster with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. "This is not unheard of. It's more kind of a factor that we're getting spoiled, if anything."
The low in the Twin Cities was 10 degrees below zero Tuesday morning, 4 degrees short of the 97-year-old record of 14 below for Dec. 12. Lows close to that aren't unusual for this time of year, Davis said.
Early morning temperatures were in the double digits below zero across the state. Park Rapids in the northwest had the statewide low with 27 below. Bemidji, Cambridge, Orr and Roseau dipped to 26 below. Hibbing hit 24 below. Brainerd saw 23 below, while Benson, Ely, Eveleth, Silver Bay and Thief River Falls reported 22 below. Early morning winds were mostly light.
In southern Minnesota, Austin set a record low of 17 below -- breaking the old record low of 16 below set for Dec. 12 in 1962 -- and wind chills dipped as low as 53 below. Albert Lea, Mankato and Rochester reported 15 below.
Tuesday's high in the Twin Cities was forecast to be zero to 5 above Tuesday. The average high for the date is 27 degrees; the average low is 12. During the 1990s, those temperatures ran consistently higher.
"In the past couple of years, we've seen temperatures far above normal in November and December," Davis said. "The past few winters, we've seen the jet stream remain across Minnesota pretty much through the winter. Now, it's doing what it normally does in the winter -- it goes up to Alaska and dives down into the Rockies and into Texas. It keeps the cold air flowing to the south pretty much all winter."
Arctic high pressure was expected to stay over the Upper Midwest through Wednesday, with temperatures below zero and wind chills from 25 below to 50 below. Temperatures Monday ranged from 20 below in the far north to the single digits below zero in the south.
With two weeks to go before the official start of winter, the northern edge of a blizzard that blasted Chicago and southern Wisconsin on Monday dropped as much as 6 inches of snow in parts of southeastern Minnesota.
Snow elsewhere in the Midwest forced many flights to be canceled Monday. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport travelers were seeing the effects of severe weather in Chicago.
Northwest Airlines canceled nearly 200 flights Monday, including about half of its Detroit schedule, in preparation for the storm. "When there's a significant winter storm, it's not realistic to fly the same number planes as you would when conditions are normal," said spokesman Matt Friedman.
Across Minnesota, motorists struggled with dying batteries and stalled cars.
Barb Buchholz of AAA Minnesota-Iowa said the agency had received 1,600 calls by late afternoon Monday, or about three times what's typical on a normal winter day.
Snow and wind also forced several schools in southern Minnesota to cancel classes Monday.
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