REGIONAL — The recorded high temperature in Worthington for Feb. 15, 2007 was a mere 4 degrees, the coldest high in history for that date.
Until this year, that is.
The National Weather Service reported a high of minus-13 Monday morning for the previous 24-hour period, easily breaking that 14-year-old Feb. 15 mark. Predictably, a new all-time low temperature of minus-24 was also established, breaking the old record (also set in 2007) of minus-15.
The day’s average temperature reading? A bone-chilling minus-18.5 degrees. Cold like that ought to make today’s expected high of 9-above feel downright balmy.
“We have an arctic air mass that has slid south from the North Pole that has been cooling all winter,” explained Lance Vandenboogart, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, late Monday afternoon. “What’s unique is just how far south that air has begun to slide, as the jet stream has traveled as far south as Texas and even northern Mexico. All the news stories about snow in Texas and Oklahoma and record-low temperatures, they’re all because of this big blob of air that’s pushed very south.”
That “big blob” even brought rare snow to Cuero, Texas, Worthington’s King Turkey Day rival community, as well as a Monday overnight low of 12 degrees. Rolling power outages were taking place, as is the case in many cities in the south, and a winter storm warning was in effect until 6 a.m. Thursday.
Meanwhile, Worthington’s Feb. 15 readings came on the heels of a Feb. 14 that also delivered record-shattering thermometer readings. The National Weather Service reported a high of minus-3 and a low of minus-21, which both set new standards for record cold.
For Feb. 13, Worthington’s reported low temperature of minus-17 just missed the mark of minus-18 set exactly one year before. The overnight low reported early Tuesday morning from Worthington was minus-23, which missed the 1979 record of minus-25, but the high of minus-10 and the average 24-hour temperature of minus-16.5 degrees were both new records.
Other southwest Minnesota communities, naturally, were caught up in the big chill as well.
Both Luverne and Windom reported lows of minus-26 for Feb. 15; Slayton had minus-24 and Pipestone had minus-22. Slayton and Windom also reported highs of minus-11, which ranked among the coldest in the region outside of Worthington.
The extreme cold should be a thing of the past before too long, Vandenboogart said.
“Things are going to be moderating somewhat. It’s still going to be cool for the next few days, but it’s going to transition to more typical winter temperatures,” he said, adding that temperature in the low to mid-30s should be prevalent by the coming weekend.
“There’s nothing we can see in the models that shows another mass of cold arctic air coming down over us, though you can never be sure,” Vandenboogart continued. “It’s looking like the next couple of weeks won’t be this cold, and then we’re heading into March.”
Students in Worthington Independent School District 518 facilities headed back into 100% in-person learning on Tuesday despite the cold, with district officials calling Monday night for a two-hours-late start as a result of the chill. Meanwhile, vehicles traveling around the region faced the unsurprising — yet unpleasant — problems associated with arctic air.
“I think it’s the busiest day we’ve had in a long time,” said Mandy West, an employee with Pulver Towing of Worthington, on Monday afternoon. “We had five semis today with gelled-up fuel … and we towed them all back to Ron’s Repair so they could take care of them there and get them back on the road. I think we’ve probably done about 15 tows and jumpstarts (Monday); I think most of them were battery issues.”
West said there were occasions in which all three drivers for Pulver Towing were already out, “so I had to go get my pickup and my jump starter pack and do a couple of them myself.” There’s usually one or two calls for jumpstarts on a typical winter day, she noted.
“I feel bad for the guys who’ve got to hook up the cars,” West said. “When you’re outside five minutes and your face is already frozen, that’s tough.
“Heath (Mitchell, general manager) is out with the semis, and those take a good 30 minutes to hook up. When he gets back in his truck, he’s pretty chilled.”
Cory Bomgaars, who owns BTU Heating & Cooling, said Tuesday morning that he was keeping busy restoring heat to area residences and businesses.
“There are a lot more cycles per hour for (heating) equipment because of the cold,” Bomgaars said. “It puts a lot more stress on parts … and every part or component has its own life cycle. When you’re cycling two or three more times than what usually happens in a day, it kind of taxes it pretty good.”
Bomgaars added that BTU typically does about 10 service calls on an average winter’s day.
“During this cold snap, we’re in the 20 to 25 category — just about double,” he said, adding that about half his work done is outside. “I really don’t wish this on anybody.”