The area had a very bad cold this past week. It was such a bad cold that it got a name: Polar Vortex.
The Polar Vortex arrived in the region on Monday, Jan. 28 and didn't leave until Thursday, Jan. 31. The Polar Vortex brought recorded lows of -31 and windchills of -60 on certain days and left behind schools that closed, businesses that closed for a day or closed early or opened late. This cold was so bad it even stopped the mail.
While it hung around for nearly a week, one thing the Polar Vortex didn't do was set many record temperatures, according to the data recorded by the West Central Research and Outreach Center.
WCROC records data from 8 a.m. and reflects the conditions for the prior 24-hour period. Readings listed as Jan. 31 are actually the readings from 8 a.m. on Jan. 30 to 8 a.m. on Jan. 31.
The low of -31 on Wednesday, Jan. 30, did not exceed the historic low set of -31 set for Jan. 30 in 1918. The low of -32 didn't break the record low of -34 set on Jan. 31, 1887.
But, the high of -21 at 8 a.m. on Thursday, Jan. 31, is a record.
WROC's weather data shows that it was very cold in January of 1888, the year of the "Children's Blizzard." The blizzard killed many children on their way home from school. The low temperature records are -40 on Jan. 21, 1888, and -40 on Feb. 8, 1888.
The area has been fairly healthy over the past nine years when it comes to colds. WCROC said the last time it was as cold as it was this past week was on Jan. 2, 2010, when the low was -31.
We still have some winter left. WCROC data shows the record low temperature ever recorded in the area was -41 on Feb. 16, 1936.
One day it's warm and the next it's not.
"On Monday, I woke up in Phoenix. (On Tuesday) I was delivering groceries to Hancock," said Paul Martin of Willie's Supervalu in Morris. "The temperature on my car said 21 below at 1 p.m. I took a picture to send it back to my friends in Arizona."
While Martin experienced a roughly 90-degree temperature shift from one day to the next, he was already taking a sort of Minnesota "it could be worse" attitude on Wedneday, Jan. 30.
"Yesterday it was really cold," Martin said of Jan. 29. "Today (Jan. 30) it isn't quite as windy."
The extreme cold caused the Hancock School District and Chokio-Alberta Schools to cancel classes Jan. 29 through Jan. 31. Morris Area and St. Mary's did not have classes in the school but used eLearning from Jan. 28 -30. ELearning allows students to access assignments online and the day is counted as a school day. The two schools closed school on Jan. 31. Strong winds and cold also closed schools on Monday, Jan. 28.
The University of Minnesota Morris closed campus on Jan. 29 and 30. The campus opened at noon Thursday, Jan. 31.
While the weather caused some public services, schools and businesses to close, others continued to operate on a normal, or almost normal, schedule.
Working through it
Although it was cold, "It isn't stopping the world. You muddle through it," Martin said on Wednesday, Jan. 30. And, "tomorrow is supposed to be different."
Trevor Schmidgall of Meadowland Market said the cold didn't change his store's schedule.
"I thought about closing down a couple nights ago when it was really windy...," Schmidgall said on Jan. 31. But customers continued to come to the store.
"It's not as busy as it usually is but people keep trickling in," Schmidgall said.
Customers came into McGinnis Appliance iin Morris during the cold. Appliance salesman Josh Kieffer said the business kept its regular hours during the week.
"It's not as (busy) on the appliance end... I have sold a few in the last couple of days," Kieffer said.
"The furnace guys have been busy," Kieffer said.
Customers have needed furnace repairs or replacement during the Polar Vortex.
Those service calls come day or night, Kieffer said. Randy and Greg McGinnis can be reached after the store closes, Kieffer said.
"It is what it is," Kieffer said of cold weather and need for service. "We do heating and cooling and it's to be expected."
At Messner Electric in Hancock, Tony Messner said there have been few service calls. "We've been very fortunate," Messner said.
Messner said the business learns to adjust to any changes in demand. "You just roll with the punches," Messner said.
Getting to work
When Regional Fitness Center manager Monique Richardson decided to close the RFC for Wednesday, Jan. 30, her main concern was the safety of employees. Many of those are University of Minnesota Morris students who live on and off campus.
The regular Monday through Friday hours are 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. The RFC had closed early because of the weather before Jan. 30, but Richardson wasn't comfortable opening the RFC on Jan. 30.
"We've got employees coming early in the morning and staying until late at night. Their cars are sitting out all day. I'm responsible for them getting to and from work," Richardson said.
One employee had car trouble early Monday morning on Jan. 28. A substitute filled in and it took a while for the sub's car to start, Richardson said.
The high on Jan. 30 was -31. Richardson said she wouldn't risk employees trying to walk to work in order to open at 5 a.m. or leave work at 11 p.m. in extreme cold.
Messner said employees were able to get to work during the cold. "We're fortunate the guys could get to work. We had online (training) classes that we did for the last day and half," Messner said on Jan. 31.
"Employees for the most part, have been able to get to work (at Willie's)," Martin said. "We'll give them a ride if needed."
That's also true for Meadowland Market employees.
"Employees have made it. We had a couple whose cars didn't start and we picked them up," Schmidgall said.
Schmidgall said he's taken employees home or followed them home to ensure their safe return from work.