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Matt Strommer and Tony Wendlandt of A&A Towing were hooking up a vehicle that wouldn’t start Monday morning in Alexandria. As they were moving the frozen vehicle at 10 a.m., the temperature was hovering around 24 below zero with a biting wind chill of 52 below zero. (Amy Chaffins/Echo Press)

Some like it cold

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A wicked cold blast of winter weather latched onto the state earlier this week and locally, it certainly had an impact.

NO SCHOOL MONDAY IN MINNESOTA Governor Mark Dayton ordered the state’s K-12 public schools to close on Monday when the forecast called for lows reaching 30 degrees below zero and wind chills predicted to reach as low as 50 degrees below zero.

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At 9 a.m. on Monday, the temperature in Alexandria was 26 below zero with a windchill of 53 below zero.

Along with last Friday’s announcement that schools would be closed Monday, the governor’s office noted, “Exposure to extremely cold temperatures can cause hypothermia or frostbite, with the nose, cheeks, ears, fingers and toes most commonly affected. Everyone is susceptible, even people who have been living in cold climates for most of their lives.”

On Tuesday, it was up to each school district to decide if they’d close; Alexandria, Brandon-Evansville and Osakis districts started two hours late.

TOW TRUCKS Local tow companies were swamped with business during the cold snap – jumpstarts, tows and unlocks, mostly.

Monday morning, with a biting wind chill of 52 below zero, Matt Strommer of A&A Towing drove to a call for a tow on 14th Avenue West in Alexandria and said, “This cold is wreaking havoc on vehicles.”

He said the wicked cold is good for business, “But the cold is just as hard on our trucks, especially our hydraulics. We do everything we can to keep our trucks running when it’s this cold.”

Strommer put on three layers of clothing to prepare for Monday’s cold and his co-worker, Tony Wendlandt, said he put on six layers.

The men agreed that they can deal with the cold, but the last few days have been particularly brutal.

“Especially doing unlocks,” Strommer said. “You can’t do vehicle unlocks with gloves on, so within a minute your hands hurt so bad you can’t do anything.”

As of Tuesday morning, A&A Towing responded to about 40 calls during the Sunday-Monday arctic blast.

Strommer said the upside to the frigid 48 hours is that there hasn’t been snowfall along with it, causing crashes. “When you get accidents in this type of weather… especially on the interstate in this stuff, 30 to 40 minutes out there can be really hard on you.”

Shaking his head and driving to drop a tow, Strommer said, “When it’s this cold, it’s so bad that I don’t even know what to say about it.”

PIZZA DELIVERIES When the cold forces you to stay inside, what’s better than a hot pizza delivered to your door?

Cold weather is good for the pizza business, too. Laurie Kruchten, manager of Godfather’s Pizza in Alexandria, said there were definitely more delivery orders going out on Monday, but fewer in-house buffet customers.

Dan Gray, manager at the Pizza Ranch in Alexandria, said Sunday night was really busy for pizza deliveries. However, combining the cold with the fact that Monday nights are usually slower for them, he said the restaurant closed early on Monday.

ER BUSY Emergency room doctors at Douglas County Hospital were busy with patients during the cold snap, but none of the patient cases that had been there through 3 p.m. Monday were weather related, according to Eddie Reif, hospital spokesman.

COLD CATTLE What about cattle in the biting cold? Mike Boersma, University of Minnesota Extension educator, noted that producers taking steps to reduce the effects of the cold while increasing energy intake should help cattle overcome these environmental stresses.

“When providing shelter to cattle, make sure that there is still adequate air exchange so that humidity and moisture do not accumulate as these can actually compound the problem by making the animals wet,” he noted.

Boersma advised, as a general guideline, cattle will experience a 1 percent increase in their energy requirement for every 1 degree of wind chill below 32 degrees.

ANDES TOWER HILLS The local ski hill, Andes Tower Hills in Kensington, noted on its website that they were closed Sunday and Monday “… due to the crazy cold!”

Tom Anderson, general manager, said they decide if they’ll close based on customers’ decisions – like large groups cancelling due to snow or cold. “For example, if there are three groups scheduled, and all three cancel, that makes it easy for us to decide if we’ll cut back on staffing… or maybe not open at all.”

Many groups will cancel due to weather forecasts, but Anderson warned that not all weather forecasts are correct. “In the early ‘80s when I was growing up, wind chill wasn’t even a word in a dictionary. We just put on another layer because we knew it was cold out.”

However, Anderson said, with the latest round of extreme cold, he doesn’t blame groups for not showing up but it is taking a toll.

He said, “Our business is substantially down this year because of the cold weather. I sure hope there’s a warm spell coming up here.”

Good news! It will “warm up” later this week. Suddenly, a forecast calling for daytime highs in the mid-20s sounds delightful.

A FEW FRIGID FACTS...

● Alexandria had one of the coldest wind chill values around the state on Monday with a reading of 55 below zero reported at 6:15 a.m.

● Monday’s low temperature in Alexandria sank to 25 below zero. The record low was 28 below zero in 1951.

● On January 6, 2013, temperatures were in the low to mid 30s across Central and West Central Minnesota.

Source: Meteorologist Mark Anthony

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Amy Chaffins
Amy Chaffins is a journalist working for the Echo Press newspaper. After graduating from St. Cloud State University, Amy’s first job was at KSAX-TV working as an anchor and reporter. From 2003-2010, Amy worked as an editor and reporter for the Pope County Tribune and Starbuck Times newspapers. During her journalism career, Amy earned writing and photography awards from the Associated Press, Minnesota Newspaper Association and Society of Professional Journalists. Amy and her husband, Brandon, live in Alexandria and together write “He Sez, She Sez,” a humor column in the local women’s magazine, Chicz
(320) 763-1242
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