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Minnesota Weather: Bitter Blast Brings Coldest Morning Seen In Decades

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – It's not over yet.

Minnesotans endured Wednesday the coldest morning seen in decades, as a deep freeze settled over the state, with temperatures in the Twin Cities dipping to 28 below zero with wind chills as frigid as 53 below zero.

The entire state, along with most of the Upper Midwest, is under a wind chill warning, according to the National Weather Service. With wind chills dipping down to colder than 60 below in parts of Minnesota, frostbite can set in on exposed skin in just minutes. Indeed, Regions Hospital has reported seeing more than 45 frostbite patients since arctic air arrived in Minnesota.

RELATED: School Closings

The extreme cold has prompted schools across the state to close for days, including the largest districts in the Twin Cities and the University of Minnesota. Many restaurants and stores have also closed or shortened their open hours. Even the U.S. Postal Service halted mail delivery Wednesday in Minnesota and western Wisconsin.

Amid the deep freeze, there have notable breakdowns. In the Twin Cities, thousands of residents lost power overnight as temperatures plummeted. Power has since been restored to most homes. In southeastern Minnesota, the Department of Transportation idled snow plows as the subzero cold was causing mechanical issues.

Fearing natural gas outages, Xcel Energy, the largest utility in the state, told residents in an area of central Minnesota to keep their thermostats at 60 degrees and no higher, as turning them up could lead to strain on the natural gas system. In one city, Princeton, 150 homes lost gas service, prompting Xcel Energy to buy those affected space heaters and hotels rooms to stay in until the extreme cold subsides.

At Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, flights were delayed due to cold-related mechanical issues. At the Minnesota Senate, hearings were canceled. Even beer stopped being shipped in Minnesota, as the cases of cold ones would freeze in the delivery trucks unless they were heated.

'It Hasn't Been This Cold In Decades'

In the Twin Cities early Wednesday morning, the mercury at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport reached 28 below zero, nearly matching a daily record of 30 below set more than 100 years ago, in 1887.

The last time a deep freeze similar to the one this week settled on the Minnesota was in January of 1996. Back then, during the two-week stretch of frigid cold, air temperatures in the Twin Cities dipped to 27 below zero, and the coldest air temperature ever in Minnesota was recorded: 60 below zero, in Tower, in northeastern Minnesota.

As for wind chill factors Wednesday, Minnesota hasn't seen readings like these since the mid-80s. Some communities in extreme northern Minnesota recorded wind chills Wednesday as cold as 66 below, nearly matching the all-time record of 70 below.

Meteorologist Matt Brickman says the warmest it'll feel Wednesday in the Twin Cities is about 36 below zero, factoring in wind chill. Early Thursday morning, air temperatures will again dip to around 25 below in the Twin Cities, perhaps matching or breaking a daily record of negative 27, set back in 1886.

Schools, such as Minnesota's largest district, Anoka-Hennepin, have already called off classes for Thursday. Some students in Minnesota will have been out of school for four days this week due to snow and cold.

Thursday afternoon is expected to bring a slight warm up and the end to the wind chill warning. Highs Thursday look to climb near zero.

The warming trend will continue through the weekend. Friday is expected to bring highs above zero and Saturday is promising highs even above freezing, approaching 40 degrees. Rain -- yes, rain -- is in the forecast for Sunday.

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