Week begins with snowstorm, extreme cold and ends with warm-up and snow melt

By : 
Melissa Vander Plas
News Leader

In the matter of seven days, southeastern Minnesota experienced a significant snowstorm, record-breaking cold temperatures and an end-of-the-week warm up that resulted in the loss of much of the area’s snow cover. Fillmore Central, Mabel-Canton and Lanesboro closed school for four days due to snow and bitter temperatures. Businesses closed or limited hours during the cold snap as well.

The Monday, Jan. 28, a snowstorm left 10 to 12 inches of snow in area communities and was followed by a polar vortex which brought days of sub-zero temperatures, setting a record low temperature of 27-below-zero at the Preston weather station on Tuesday, Jan. 29, and another record low of 29-below-zero on Wednesday, Jan. 30. The high on Wednesday was 18-below-zero.

A polar vortex is described as "a large area of low pressure and cold air surrounding the Earth's poles," according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The "vortex" is a counterclockwise flow of air that helps keep the colder air close to the poles. Occasionally, the vortex will expand and send cold air southward with the jet stream.

At 5:20 a.m., on Jan. 30, U.S. National Weather Service in La Crosse, Wis., hit -30 degrees F. The cold snap is considered one of the coldest periods since February 1996.

Windchill values reached -40 degrees F at times or lower. Officials warned that frostbite could occur in 10 minutes or less, and urged no traveling unless necessary.

If people did need to travel, they needed to dress in layers and appropriate winter garb to stay warm.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation pulled snowplows off roads Tuesday night due to mechanical problems created by the extremely cold conditions.

In addition, a few roads were marked "No Travel Advised" overnight due to the blowing snow.

It was easier to make a list of open places than closed places last week when way subzero temperatures froze Minnesota in its tracks.

In another rare occurrence, the United States Postal Service suspended mail delivery on Wednesday and Thursday. Even though the post office didn't deliver mail to rural mailboxes, clerks and carriers reported to work to keep up with paperwork.

Temperatures continued to rise Thursday and above freezing temperatures caused snow to melt and moisture to accumulate in the air, creating foggy conditions on Saturday and Sunday. Temperatures reached highs in the 40s, according to AccuWeather.com, creating a 70-degree change in temperature over the course of a few days.

As the News Leader went to press on Tuesday, another snowstorm was forecasted to arrive with accumulations of two to four inches, with additional snow predictions for Wednesday and Thursday.

Jordan Gerard, editor of the Spring Grove Herald, also contributed to this article.