Beginning at 6 p.m. last Friday, Feb. 5, the National Weather Service (NWS) issued a wind chill advisory. The area has been in wind chill advisories ever since, with the most recent one lasting until noon on Sunday, Feb. 14. At that point, we will have been in a windchill advisory for 210 hours.
Actual temperatures have also been frigid.
The high last Friday, Feb. 5, was four degrees above zero. If it stays below zero through Sunday as predicted by the NWS, Park Rapids will also have the second longest run of consecutive days below zero since weather records were kept, with nine.
Alexandra Kent, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Grand Forks, N.D. looked back at the records for Park Rapids.
“If you look at days we’ve been consistently at or below zero, the longest run we have for Park Rapids is 15 days back in 1900,” she said. “The longest stretch in recent years would be seven days in 1994.”
According to the NWS, the lowest temperature in Park Rapids from Feb. 5 through Feb. 11 occurred on Feb. 8 with 31 degrees below zero.
“By contrast, the average high in Park Rapids this time of year is 10 degrees above zero and the average low is around two degrees below zero,” she said.
The soonest we may climb above zero is Monday, Feb. 15, with the NWS forecasting a high of three degrees above zero.
Kent said consistent high pressure is responsible for the extended cold.
“It’s pretty strong so that plays into how long it takes to break down or for it to retreat back to the north,” she said.
Long-range forecasts indicate a gradual warmup is on the way next week.
“We are seeing some indicators in our ensembles that we look at that we could get into a little bit warmer weather,” she said. “By a little bit warmer I mean like five above.”
She explained that an ensemble is a weather model created by plugging in different factors to give different possible outcomes.
Some weather apps show Park Rapids could get into the 20s by next Saturday, Feb. 20.
“But really, with that far out it’s kind of more of a guess on where we’ve been climatologically,” Kent said. “We’ve only really seen one ensemble member being that far above zero out of all of the ensembles we’ve looked at. So it’s a small chance.”
Kent said Wadena does not have an official climate recording station.
Alexandra Kent, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Grand Forks, N.D., is spending her first winter up north, having moved here from Texas six months ago.
“The weather here is definitely different than where I was but I’m enjoying it,” she said. “I like the snow and not sweating in February. I have always lived somewhere in the south. I wanted to be in a place with four seasons. This is what I’ve always heard winter is like. Down south it mostly feels like summer, then a little bit of fall, then summer again. It’s definitely nice to have snow, too. Here at the office we have had about 13 inches this year.”
So far her winter highlight has been seeing the northern lights for the first time in a drive out of the city near the airport.
“It wasn’t a strong storm, but you could see the green cast to the sky and you could see pillars occasionally,” she said.
Kent mostly has been focusing on inside activities during the cold spell. “I like different types of crafting, and I sew and crochet to keep myself occupied,” she said. “I found out I need to dress in multiple layers to stay warm, because this cold can eat through one layer of clothing pretty quick. You can stay out longer if you have the right gear.
“But it’s pretty cold, so I wouldn’t want to be outside anyway. I learned that around 13 degrees below zero, your nose starts to freeze. My car has a really high cold cranking amperage battery and it’s been starting, even though I don’t have a garage.”