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Helmut Schmidt, Published January 18 2013

A show of ND, MN weather extremes: Six months to the day, 125 degrees different

FARGO - Temperatures are going to descend into near Arctic territory today in Fargo-Moorhead, with lows in the minus-20s forecast for Sunday and Monday, the National Weather Service says.

While you’re wondering if your car is going to start, here’s a warm thought: six months ago, on July 20, the thermometer hit 100 degrees here.

Welcome to North Dakota, the state of extremes!

WDAY meteorologist Rob Kupec said the cold snap won’t make records in Fargo. Sunday would have to beat minus 42 degrees, and Monday minus 41 degrees, Kupec said.

“We’ve been as warm as 114, and the coldest it’s ever been is minus 48 in Fargo. You can find remote places that get extremes like that, but you won’t find many cities that get that extreme,” Kupec said.

According to the National Climatic Data Center, Montana has the widest gap between record high and low temperatures at 187 degrees. North Dakota and Wyoming follow at 181 degrees. Alaska is next at 180 degrees, California (179), South Dakota and Idaho (178), and Minnesota, Colorado and Nevada (175).

The highest temperature recorded in North Dakota was 121 degrees at Steele on July 6, 1936. The lowest temperature recorded for the state was minus 60 degrees at Parshall on Feb. 15, 1936, records show.

Minnesota’s record low was minus 60 degrees in Tower on Feb. 2, 1996, according to the Minnesota Climatological Working Group. Its hottest temperature is 115 degrees in Beardsley on July 29, 1917, though Moorhead came within a bead of perspiration of the record with 114 degrees on July 6, 1936, according to the National Climatic Data Center.

It’s been awhile since the F-M area dipped into the 20s below zero, stretching the low end of the area’s weather extremes into the instantly uncomfortable, quickly dangerous zone.

“In February last year there were four subzero days. Last year we did not have a subzero high. We usually have several subzero highs,” Kupec said.

The coldest it got last winter was 17 below zero on Jan. 19, Kupec said.

Bill Barrett, a meteorologist technician with the NWS in Grand Forks, said we owe our shot of cold to the jet stream taking a dive to the south.

Barrett suggests that if you go outside during the cold spell to layer clothing, wear a hat and don’t leave skin exposed for frostbite.

“Just go from heat source to heat source. Don’t stay out very long,” Barrett said.

The fresh blast of freeze-your-snot cold blows in with a 20 percent chance of snow today. Winds will be out of the northwest, increasing up to 27 to 37 mph with gusts as high as 50 mph. By 5 p.m. it should be zero degrees, on the way to a low around 14 degrees below zero, with wind chills in the minus 30s.

Kupec said the winds could be near blizzard strength, with some ground drifting locally. There’s a possibility of blizzard-like conditions north of Grand Forks where more snow has fallen, he said.

There’s a 50 percent chance of snow Sunday, with a high of 5 below zero, the NWS predicts. Sunday night into Monday morning should bring temps about 24 below. On Monday, the high will be a chilly minus 11, with temps dipping again overnight to minus 20 degrees.

Tuesday, temps may hit 1 degree above zero, with an overnight low of minus 12. By Wednesday, the high could claw its way to 10 degrees, the NWS says.

Some folks were looking forward to getting a chance to hunker down. Keirstyn Sanders said she was going to hit the grocery store and settle in.

“Mentally, I’m just looking forward to the fact I have a few days off,” she said.

Bill Damon is prepared.

“I’ve already got my long johns bought. After all, it’s North Dakota. That hasn’t changed,” Damon said.

Mark Ryan isn’t ready to hibernate either.

“I live in Moorhead. It gets cold. It’s kind of the name of the game,” he said. “I’m not going to go out and buy batteries and bread or anything. We’ll survive.”

Other weather extremes for North Dakota:

Other weather extremes for Minnesota:

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583

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