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You're nuts if you think you can live in your car in North Dakota this winter

November 18, 2011 - Andrea Johnson
There are several posts in the North Dakota forum at city-data.com that scare me to death. Apparently there are people out there who are seriously considering living in their cars this winter and trying to find work in western North Dakota.

A word to anyone considering this: it is impossible. You may think you know what cold is, but until you have felt a 40 below zero windchill, you have no idea how a North Dakota winter can chill you to the bone.

It is the kind of cold that can kill. Try to sleep in your car on such a night, even if you wear winter clothing and warm it up periodically, and you could easily fall asleep and never wake up. A few years ago a maid at one of the local hotels went out to her car in the parking lot and fell asleep on a cold winter night. They found her frozen to death in her car the next day. Any North Dakotan can tell you similar stories, about people who tried walking in a blizzard and were found frozen solid in a ditch. There's a folk song about a Center, North Dakota teenager named Hazel Miner who got lost in a blizzard in 1920 and froze to death. Her brother and sister survived because she lay on top of them to protect them from the cold.

Even being outside for just a few moments in this weather can be dangerous. On Tuesday afternoon I was foolish enough to go out without gloves and interviewed a couple of college students standing outside for the Freezin' for a Reason food drive. It was below freezing, though not below zero. In the five minutes it took to do that interview, my hands went numb and started to turn red, the beginnings of frostbite. The same thing happened last winter when I walked across the Minot State University campus in slightly colder weather wearing two pairs of gloves, a hat, a down-filled winter coat and snow boots. Fortunately, I was only minutes from a warm building.

North Dakota has a severe housing shortage and a problem with landlords who jack up rents so high that people are forced out and just might end up living in their cars this winter. This is a problem that must be solved immediately. Affordable housing is desperately needed. But, given that it is a problem for people already here, people from out of state who are considering coming up here without a place to live need to know that they are taking their lives in their hands if they do. Living in your car is not a viable option.

 
 

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