It's days like today that make area residents keep repeating the motto of Minot Air Force Base - "Only the Best Come North."
Minot and all of North Dakota are in the midst of enduring a blast of cold weather that is expected to drop both the temperature and wind chill down into negative double digits. Ken Simosko, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Bismarck, said it was minus 4 in Minot and minus 6 at Minot Air Force Base Saturday afternoon, with a wind chill of minus 30 to 35.
Unfortunately, that was the good news.
The Bremer Bank marquee, back left, shows minus 2 for the temperature early Saturday afternoon.
A woman steps into a truck at the entrance of Dakota Square Mall. The National Weather Service is forecasting a high of minus 20 today, which would be the coldest high temperature on record for the city.
"It's only going to get colder," he said.
This morning Simosko expects Minot residents to wake up to temperatures from minus 25 to 28, with a high of only minus 20. For those who like to brag about how cold it gets in the Magic City, Simosko has some good news.
"The coldest Minot has ever been for a high temperature ... is minus 12," he said. "And that goes back to 1937."
Although a temperature in the low minus 20s is hardly ideal, as the old saying goes, it could be worse. The lowest recorded temperature in North Dakota was set in Parshall on Feb. 15, 1936, when the thermometer dropped to minus 60, and that wasn't even taking the wind chill into account.
That record low gives North Dakota the distinct honor of being in a very exclusive club. Only six other states have ever recorded a temperature in the minus 60s - Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Minnesota, Montana and Wyoming. There have been 11 other states that had temperatures dip to at least minus 50.
While Minot won't be getting quite that cold, Simosko said the wind chill will probably make up for it.
"The big news, though, is going to be the wind. We're still looking at sustained (winds) around 20 mph, gusts to lower 30s. That's going to give the wind chill temperatures at the danger level there - we're at about minus 50 to minus 55," he said. "A few up toward the (Canadian) border is closer to minus 55 to minus 60."
On Monday area residents can expect to start their workweek with a low of minus 26 and a high of minus 13.
"We kind of get the idea that the core of the coldest air is coming through (today) and (tonight)," Simosko said.
With temperatures that dangerously low, Simosko said frostbite is a very real concern. He noted exposed skin on children, adults, pets and pretty much any warm-blooded animal can freeze within five minutes.
"It's going to be life-threatening, as we're calling it," he said.
Simosko said North Dakota has been locked in a northwest flow, meaning all the weather has been coming from northern and northwest Canada. This time of year produces some of the coldest weather in Canada and it in turn gets unleashed on North Dakota and other northern states.
"There's nothing that's really going to stop it. It has to make its pass through and it's doing that," Simosko said. "The core of the coldest air, like I said, will be here (today) and (tonight), and then it will swing off to the East Coast as we get into Monday and Tuesday, and even into Wednesday."
Looking ahead at the upcoming week, Simosko said Minot will gradually get warmer each day until hitting what most would consider a tropical-feeling high of 29 above on Saturday.
After a high of minus 20 today, Simosko is forecasting highs of minus 13 on Monday, zero on Tuesday, 4 above on Wednesday, a pretty big jump to 19 on Thursday, 27 on Friday, and finally a balmy 29 on Saturday.
"So a big change between now and the next seven days," he said.
The temperatures are expected to be so cold that Gov. Jack Dalrymple on Friday encouraged school superintendents in North Dakota to take a hard look at the weather before deciding whether to hold classes or not.
"Keeping students safe is the first priority and I urge all superintendents to use their best discretion in determining whether to convene school on Monday," Dalrymple said in a press release. "We want this to be a local decision."
While people typically think of northern areas as getting the worst of winter weather, Simosko said it will be bone-chillingly cold across the board, with the entire state being under a wind chill warning, which starts at minus 40, through Monday, and facing wind chills of minus 50 to 60, even along the southern border.
It's been so cold that in Watford City on Saturday a temporary emergency shelter was opened at the Watford City Civic Center, with cots and blankets available through today.
While the temperatures are truly frightening to think about, Simosko said Minot will catch a break with only blowing and drifting snow, and little if any new snowfall.
The slowdown of snowfall also allowed the North Dakota Department of Transportation and the North Dakota Highway Patrol to open Interstate 29 from Fargo to Grand Forks Saturday morning. In addition, all no travel advisories were lifted across the state and travel alerts were no longer in effect.
Simosko said it's been a while since North Dakota has faced temperatures quite this extreme. He said wind chills of minus 40 to 45 are a bit more common, but it's probably been 10 or 20 years since wind chills have hit minus 55 or 60. Those are the kinds of temperatures that either make someone brag about living here, or vow to move away once the snow melts.
"It's been a while. People are not really accustomed to that type of cold. I mean we're accustomed to cold, but with the wind at 20 (mph) and gusts to 35 mph, that sends an extra message when you have that and you're standing outside," Simosko said. "That's pretty brutal."