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Polar vortex brings cold temps to area

By Staff | Feb 1, 2019

Rugby resident Walt Burgard gets help from his two nieces as he shovels the sidewalk in front of his home Monday.  A Sunday storm left drifts of snow on Rugby streets, and schools opened two hours late Monday morning. Sue Sitter/PCT

Although North Dakotans pride themselves on their hardiness in brutal cold, the Arctic Circle can throw a challenge their way from time to time.

Earlier this week, Rugby and most of northern North Dakota found itself in the midst of what meteorologists called a polar vortex unlike any in recent years.

Sunday snow and wind chills caused area schools to open 2 hours late Monday, but what followed in the next two days cancelled classes and school activities altogether. Local businesses reduced their hours or closed during these days, and the US Postal Service suspended delivery in North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota Wednesday due to record low air temperatures and wind chills.

Meteorologist Todd Hamilton of the National Weather Service office in Bismarck told the Tribune by phone the lowest official temperature in Rugby was recorded Wednesday morning.

“The (official) low temperature at the Rugby Airport was 38 degrees below zero,” Hamilton said.

“We did have one other report of 49 below zero at a site west of Rugby, that was a North Dakota Department of Transportation site. Although it’s not out of the question that it could be that cold, it looks like there could have been some issues with the DOT sites throughout the states that were all reporting the same number, so, it could have been a malfunction,” Hamilton noted.

“Although,” Hamilton added, “there were some temperatures in the area that were relatively close to that. We had a 46 below at Lake Metigoshe State Park from one of our cooperative observers, and one of 40 below west of Bottineau. So, although it wasn’t outside of the realm of possibility, it might be a little suspect, and the 38 below is maybe a little more representative of a lot of temperatures in that area.”

Hamilton predicted temps to warm to the 20s Friday, and while he forecasted colder weather and a bit of snow for Rugby Sunday night, he said North Dakota wouldn’t experience the same brutal cold from late January as February begins.

Although staying home during severe cold snaps is a good idea, Hamilton offered advice for those who must venture outside.

“If you’re traveling, I would carry a winter survival kit,” Hamilton said. “For those working outdoors or who have to be outdoors during these cold temperatures, dress in layers. Make sure your head and hands are covered. It only takes a few minutes to get frostbite with temperatures this low.”

Hamilton said a good winter survival kit should include “some clothing; extra blankets to keep you warm; a candle or flashlight for lighting. I would carry some candy bars or non-perishable food items. I would also bring medicine. If you’re taking any medications, make sure you have an extra dosage with you in your survival kit in case you get stranded. Also a good thing to have is a little kitty litter, or sand and gravel and a shovel to get you out if you become stuck.”

“Those are good things you can bring along,” Hamilton noted.

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