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Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014
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Fillmore County survives arctic cold, polar vortex moves out


By Mitchell Walbridge

Fri, Jan 10th, 2014
Posted in All The Great Outdoors

For the first time in 17 years, all Minnesota public schools were ordered closed by Governor Mark Dayton on Monday, January 6 due to dangerously cold temperatures and wind chills. The last Minnesota governor to close public schools statewide was Arne Carlson, who closed schools three times during his governorship—once in January 1994, once in February 1996, and once in January 1997.

In addition, several Fillmore County businesses closed their doors in order to cope with the frigid temperatures, a call made to keep both employees and customers safe. Even though weather data is often unpredictable, the temperatures experienced from January 6 through January 8 is some of the coldest many will probably see for a significant duration of time—or at least many hope.

What’s really behind the presence of the cold air was really a not-so-common phenomena that weather experts call a ‘polar vortex,’ or an upper-level polar wind current that spins in a clockwise direction. Normally such a system is located up around the north pole, and rarely does it travel far enough southward to affect a good portion of the United States.

According to the National Weather Service records from January 6, 2014, the coldest wind chill recorded at the Fillmore County Airport in Preston, Minn. was -51 with a temperature of -22 degrees Fahrenheit at 5:22 a.m. This is cold enough to freeze exposed skin in as little as five minutes or less.

In a statement to the public about statewide school closure, Governor Dayton stated, “The safety of Minnesota’s schoolchildren must be our first priority.” Minnesota Education Commissioner Brenda Cassellius went on to say, “Children’s safety is always our top priority, and as a former superintendent, I know these are never easy calls.”

The Governor of Minnesota has the authority to allow the commissioner of education “to alter school schedules, curtail school activities, or order schools closed.” Though, the governor did leave Tuesday’s closures up to the school districts, all public schools in Fillmore County were closed Tuesday.

With at least two more months of winter weather ahead, there will no doubt be a fair share of snowfall and freezing temperatures. Using your best judgment for safety when outside and on roadways is a necessity for Minnesota winters.

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