Below zero temps offer bitter bite; chill will remain through week
WORTHINGTON -- Worthington has hit a new low -- a bitterly cold, stay-in-your-home, don't-start-your-car kind of low.
Saturday morning's minus 31 degree temperature shattered the community's previous record low of minus 25, set in 1974. The forecast for this Saturday has the potential to break another record, according to Kyle Weisser, a lead forecaster with the National Weather Service office in Sioux Falls, S.D.
"The winds will really pick up -- up to 35 miles per hour (on Thursday) -- and temperatures will fall below zero," Weisser said. While the winds are expected to drop off later this week, he said it will allow the temperatures to drop further as well. On Monday afternoon, Weisser said Saturday's low temperature could be close to minus 25. The record low on Jan. 9 is minus 22, set in 1977 and again in 1988.
The extreme cold temperatures are fit for neither man nor beast.
Sara Barber, a veterinarian at the Veterinary Medical Center in Worthington, said there are three basic principles people need to remember in regard to livestock and pet safety during extreme temperatures -- providing adequate shelter, food and water.
Outdoor pets need straw or blankets to lie on and heated water dishes, she said. If the owner doesn't have a heated dish for their pet, they should offer water at least four times per day.
"Livestock is similar," Barber said. "The biggest thing is to protect them from the wind."
She suggested providing dry bedding and increasing the amount of feed because animals have higher energy requirements during extreme cold temperatures. Fresh water should be available four to six times per day if the livestock owners do not have automatic watering systems in place.
"We haven't had any cases of frostbite -- the owners have known ahead of time to get the pens bedded," said Barber. "Everyone's done a real nice job of staying ahead of the weather and taking care of their animals."
So far this season, she said the only livestock injuries have been due to roof collapses on livestock barns due to snow loads. There have been a few of those in the area, she added.
At Prairie Elementary in Worthington, students returned to class on Monday, but recess was an indoor activity. It's looking like that may be the case for the rest of the week.
"We actually use zero degrees as our guide, whether it's temperature or wind chill," said Josh Noble, assistant principal. On days when the temperature or wind chill are below zero, Noble said students gather for recess in the commons and do board games or other activities.
"They normally do puzzles, checkers or chess, or (the younger students) get out the building blocks and Legos," Noble said. "As the kids get a little older -- fourth or fifth grade -- there are times that the (paraprofessionals) will do an either-or thing if the kids want to get a little fresh air, but on days like this, we don't even give that as an option."
Weisser said another system will be coming into the region late Tuesday and into Wednesday, with approximately 2 inches of snow expected in the Worthington area. If the system holds together like the National Weather Service expects, Weisser said they will begin issuing weather watches or warnings as early as today.
"Anybody planning any outdoor activities or travel on Wednesday or Thursday may want to rethink those or be prepared for the worst," he added. "Obviously, with pets and your children, you're going to want to keep tabs on them."
Weisser said there doesn't appear to be a warm-up in our southwest Minnesota weather anytime soon.
"We're just stuck in a pattern right now where we're having a hard time shaking this northern flow," he said, adding that the deep snow pack is contributing to the cold temperatures. "We really don't have a good source for warmer weather right now. It is cold everywhere."
With the cold temperatures and the amount of snow on the ground, wildlife in the region is also impacted.
"When you see (pheasants) out during the heart of the day, that's an indication that they're struggling to find forage," said Scott Rall, president of Nobles County Pheasants Forever. "It is that increased time in the open that increases predation from hawks and (other animals)."
Rall said the Nobles County PF chapter will have a corn wagon available in the near future for people who wish to feed pheasants. He cautioned, however, that any feeding should be done in open areas as opposed to in groves or sheltered land.
"If they're feeding, birds have their greatest self-defense if they feed in open areas," Rall said.
Nearly all of the Pheasant Run properties in Nobles County have food plots on them to provide food for wildlife during the winter. The chapter also has feeders available at cost for individuals interested in helping in the cause.