Punishing wind chills arrive in the region
WORTHINGTON -- Chester Hunter has seen a lot of winters in his more than of 30 years as an education professional.
This winter, he said Tuesday afternoon, has been particularly difficult.
A combination of snow, gusty winds and bone-rattling wind chills closed schools across southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa for a second consecutive day Tuesday, and the forecast today sounds ominous yet again. With wind chills of up to 50 below in the offing, late starts or closures will once again be possibilities.
"There was talk that if this wind doesn't cut down, we'll close everything off (today) as well," said Hunter, the principal and a teacher at Edgerton's Free Christian School.
Like communities throughout the area, drifting snow and low visibility in rural areas are the primary contributors to school-closing decisions.
In Edgerton, Hunter works with administrators from Southwest Christian and Edgerton Public schools on determining weather-related schedule changes.
"It's pretty much the public school that makes the decision because they run the bus service, but we all get involved in notifying people," Hunter said.
School districts weren't alone in notifying students and staff of closures. All campuses of Minnesota West Community and Technical College remained shut Tuesday after closing early the previous day, and community events throughout the region -- including Farley's and Sathers Candy Co. in Round Lake -- shifted work schedules.
In fact, Farley's and Sathers had already elected by mid-Tuesday afternoon to startone hour late the following morning.
There will likely be more late starts -- or closings -- today.
"Because of the wind, which should maintain at 20- to 30-mph through the night and into very early Wednesday ... wind chills are going to average 30 to 35 below," said Mike Fuhs, a National Weather Service (NWS) meteorologist in Sioux Falls, S.D.
Fuhs said Worthington had a forecasted Tuesday night low of minus-12, "partially held up by the wind speed."
"Further to the west, like Huron, S.D., where the wind will drop off a little bit, we're expecting about 25 below," Fuhs said.
Winds will continue to diminish throughout today, Fuhs added, but high temperatures in Worthington and the region aren't likely to exceed 5. Mercury readings should rise into the mid-teens Thursday, and into the upper 20s on both Friday and Saturday.
"Arctic high pressure is drifting southward across the Plains ... and to the southeast we have very low pressure moving up the Ohio Valley," Fuhs explained. "Arctic high pressure is draining down all this cold air from Canada."
The area likely won't see any additional measurable snow over the next few days, Fuhs said. That's probably just fine with a region that has seen plenty of the white stuff in a winter of greater-than-average snowfall.
While the NWS reported just 4 inches of snow in Worthington during the period of Sunday through early Tuesday, other communities got significantly more. Pipestone, for instance, reported 11½ inches of snow; Lakefield had 7.2 inches, according to the NWS.
Being near Pipestone, Edgerton almost certainly saw the brunt of the area's most recent winter storm. The school closings will force scheduling changes to some days previously scheduled as days off.
"We're using President's Day as a make-up day," Hunter said. "There was going to be a short break in March -- one of those days is now going to be a make-up day, and I'm not sure about another one."
Hunter spent 30 years in working in Doon, Iowa, schools, and is in the midst of his third year in Edgerton. The past two winters "would have to be about the same, I would imagine" in severity, he said.
"In more than 30 years, this (winter) ranks up there, oh yeah -- top five, for sure," Hunter said. "It's not quite as bad as the winter where we actually had to go to school on Saturday. I did that once, and thought I'd never do it again."