Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Brrrutally cold in Minnesota January 27, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — Audrey Kletscher Helbling @ 10:28 AM
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The temperature monitor in my home registered the outdoor air temp at minus 14.8 degrees Fahrenheit at 7:45 a.m. Yes, I know the time is wrong.

The temperature monitor in my Faribault, Minnesota, home registered the outdoor air temp at minus 14.8 degrees Fahrenheit at 7:45 a.m. today. (Yes, I know the time is wrong.) Temps, unfortunately, are correct.

MINNESOTANS AWAKENED to another brutally cold morning with windchills plunging more than 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit on Monday.

A screen shot of MarshallRadio.net's weather-related closings list this morning. This shows only a portion of the closings listed for that area of southwestern Minnesota.

A screen shot of MarshallRadio.net’s weather-related closings list this morning. This shows only a portion of the closings listed for that area of southwestern Minnesota.

Across the state, hundreds of schools are closed and activities canceled.

KLGR radio in Redwood Falls listed these area roads as still closed this morning. Minnesota State Highway 19 in both directions between Marshall and my hometown of Vesta is closed due to white out conditions.

KLGR radio in Redwood Falls listed these area roads as still closed this morning. Minnesota State Highway 19 in both directions between Marshall and Redwood Falls is closed due to white out conditions. My hometown of Vesta lies half-way between Marshall and Redwood Falls.

Some roadways, especially in the southwestern region of Minnsota, remain closed due to white conditions and snow drifts blocking traffic lanes.

A screen shot of the Minnesota Department of Transportation 511 website shows road closures and conditions in Minnesota at 8:45 a.m. today.

A screen shot of the Minnesota Department of Transportation 511 website shows road closures and conditions in Minnesota at 8:45 a.m. today.

We’ve been advised to carry winter survival kits if we must travel, to watch for black ice and that exposed skin can freeze in five minutes.

Students in my community, like many through-out Minnesota, have another day off from classes due to the brutal weather conditions.

Students in my community, like many through-out Minnesota, have another day off from classes due to the brutal weather conditions.

Stay home if you can. That’s my best advice.

 

Field fires aplenty in Minnesota’s Red Flag areas October 6, 2011

A farm site between Morgan and Redwood Falls in southwestern Minnesota, where field conditions are dry and the fire danger high.

DRY, WINDY CONDITIONS persist in much of Minnesota creating ideal conditions for fire.

Unless you’ve had your head buried inside, you understand the danger and the reason for the National Weather Service’s Red Flag Warning that covers central and southern Minnesota.

Today would not be the day to build a campfire, have a bonfire or toss a cigarette butt out the car window (like you should any day). Burning bans are in effect throughout the state.

If forecasters are correct, these weather conditions will continue for awhile.

That all said, I wondered if my nephew, a kindergarten teacher and Westbrook volunteer firefighter, has been battling any blazes in his region of southwestern Minnesota.

Adam checked in with me early this morning:

Fires—we have had quite a few around here. Westbrook has had two; Dovray, two; and Walnut Grove, for sure three, all in the past week. It’s very dry and with the wind, it doesn’t take much to create a big fire. Many of the calls are mutual aid—helping neighboring towns with fires, but that’s how we do things here. All of them have been combines and fields. I haven’t made it to many of them as I could not get out of school at the time. But I made it to one on Sunday.

A story in today’s The Cottonwood County Citizen about a county-wide burning ban confirms Adam’s summary:

These burning bans come in the wake of at least a half-dozen fires that occurred around the county, most of which involved the harvest. Extremely dry conditions, low humidity and high winds have increased the potential for major fires.

I found an article in last Thursday’s Jackson County Pilot headlined “Combine fire sparks massive field blaze.” The story went on to say that a combine fire, fueled by 40 mph winds, quickly spread into a field. Fire crews from numerous departments in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa were called to the scene.

The Faribault Daily News today reports a Monday afternoon fire in the Lonsdale-Montgomery area that burned five acres of hay, 30 acres of swamp and 30 – 50 acres of corn.

Another blaze, this one on Wednesday afternoon in a soybean field northwest of Luverne, is reported in The Rock County Star Herald. In that case, farmers disked strips of black dirt to help contain the fire.

It’s a dangerous situation out there right now, especially for farmers bringing in the harvest in those dry, dry fields.

IF YOU WOULD LIKE to report on fires in your area, submit a comment.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Hot as “you know what” in Minnesota July 18, 2011

Air conditioners will be working overtime in Minnesota this week.

SO, MINNESOTANS, here’s the weather question of the day: “How hot is it outside?”

Although I’m of German heritage, I’d unequivocally state, “hotter than a Finish sauna.”

With a predicted dewpoint in the 70s (Sunday it reached an almost unheard of 81) and temperatures in the 90s today, the National Weather Service in Chanhassen has continued an extensive heat warning for central and southern Minnesota and west central Wisconsin through 9 p.m. Wednesday.

Heat indexes of more than 105 degrees (some media outlets are saying 110 – 117 degrees) are expected for several-hour stretches during the afternoon, creating “a dangerous situation in which heat illnesses are likely.” Ya think?

That means, folks, that we need to keep ourselves cool (preferably in an air conditioned building), drink plenty of fluids (and we’re not talking alcohol here) and stay out of the sun.

Don't increase your fluid intake via alcohol.

Honestly, when I stepped outside Sunday evening, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. You can guess how long I stayed outdoors. Long enough to turn around and walk back inside the house. I had been out earlier photographing the air conditioner you see above. I had a little trouble with the camera lens fogging over as soon as I stepped outdoors. The windows on our house also fogged, a phenomenon I have not previously seen except when I cook pasta. Weird stuff this weather.

All joking aside, this heat and humidity can be downright dangerous, especially for anyone working outdoors.

I know of some teens supposedly heading to the corn fields early this morning to detassel corn in the Stanton/Northfield area. Here’s my advice: Gulp water, by golly, then gulp some more. Slather on the sun screen, wear a cap and, if you’re at all feeling out of sorts, immediately tell your supervisor. Today would not be the day to tough it out. And, yes, I do know of what I write. As a teen I detasseled corn on days so hot it seemed as if the heavy air would suffocate me in the corn rows.

If you, or your teen, is starting a job this week as a corn detasseler, take extra precautions to avoid heat-related health issues. Also, don't quit. Every week in the cornfield won't be like this one and you' likely work only til noon.

Now, with those dire warnings out of the way, let’s talk about the words and phrases we Minnesotans use to describe this stretch of humid, hot weather. Let me pull out my Minnesota Thesaurus and thumb through the pages.

Here are some select synonyms for our current weather: steamy, muggy, scorching hot, sweltering, a real barn burner, so hot you could fry an egg on the pavement, like a sauna, “it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity”…

Whichever words you choose from that non-inclusive list, you might want to add, “It could be worse.” We Minnesotans like to tack that little phrase onto our statements lest, by not adding that qualifier, we leave ourselves open to worse circumstances/situations/weather. We do not want to tempt fate.

After all, come December, we could get socked with a raging blizzard that dumps two feet of snow on us followed by a week of temperatures plummeting to 20-below, and that’s without the windchill. We wouldn’t want to invite a Siberian winter by forgetting, this week, to say, “It could be worse.”

A snow pile divides traffic lanes along Fourth Street/Minnesota Highway 60 a block from Central Avenue in Faribault following a December 2010 snowstorm.

In summary, it’s best, really, not to overly-complain about the hellish, hot, scorching, stifling, steamy, sticky, sweltering, miserable, muggy, unbearable, oppressive heat and humidity. OK, then?

And, please, don’t be thinking, “Whatever, Audrey.”

IT’S YOUR TURN to speak up. How would you describe this weather we’re experiencing in Minnesota? How are you coping? Add your ending to this prhase: “It’s so hot in Minnesota that…”  Submit a comment and tell me whatever.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling