The coldest weather in more than 20 years arrived here last week, closing schools, businesses – even the U.S. post office. It paralyzed car engines, school buses, equipment and human extremities.

The official coldest temperature in Waconia last week was minus 27 degrees, recorded early Wednesday, Jan. 30, according to the National Weather Service, with wind chills greater than 50 below.

Several local businesses closed early during the cold snap, yet grocery and liquor store owners reported a brisk business while open with patrons stocking up on supplies.

“We’ve had cold days in January before, but I’ve never seen activity like this,” said one store owner. “It was almost hysteria.”

Waconia schools shut down for three days straight as temperatures and wind chills lingered well below zero.

In the aftermath for what is believed to be an unprecedented stretch of school closings and a reminder for next time, here is a review from School District 110 on how those decisions are made.

The thresholds for school closing are -25 temperature, or -40 windchill during school commuting hours; also, poor road conditions and/or visibility that could impede safe travel to and from school.

Superintendent Pat Devine is in regular contact with the National Weather Service and other area school superintendents during cold and snow events to make decisions. There’s a fine line on the timing of decisions, district officials note. They don’t want to make the call too early because conditions can change, but try to give parents as much of a heads-up as possible.

“We do our best to keep kids safe,” Devine said, “but parents always have the right to choose to keep their children home if they feel the weather conditions are not safe for them to attend school.”

When severe weather or other conditions cause a late start, school to be closed, or an early dismissal, students and parents/guardians are advised through text, email, phone call, and the ISD110 website: www.isd110.org. School closings also are broadcast on WCCO, KDUZ, KKCM and KARE-TV, or check the District website at http://www.isd110.org, or parents can call the School Closing Hotline at (952) 442-0640.

In term of city operations, communities like Chaska and White Bear Lake each dealt with watermain and frozen valve issues that caused thousands of gallons of water to spill onto their city streets and freeze.

Fortunately, Waconia public works did not experience any water main issues, although city staff did respond to a handful of water concerns that turned out to be internal residential issues.

“We did operate several emergency generators approximately six hours to meet Xcel Energy’s peak saving requirements,” said Craig Eldred, Public Services director. One of the generators required some minor fuel work due to the cold weather, but was operational within an hour. Staff also had some issues with a sanitary lift station control cabinet and some minor equipment issues.

“Otherwise, we continued operations as close to normal as possible,” Eldred said.

Out on the roadways, Colony Plaza’s towing service did a month’s worth of jump- starts and tows in two days. Tow truck operators responded to more than 60 calls over a 48-hour period and the repair shop stayed very busy.

“Any time it’s this cold, things start to break,” said a Colony employee. “Fortunately, the cold hasn’t continued over four to five days or more like it has in some other Januarys.”

In terms of human exposure to the extreme cold, it seems that most locals dressed sensibly and took adequate precaution. Ridgeview reported only one case of treated frostbite last week, that at Two Twelve Medical Center.

Think it was cold here last week?

Try 1885.

To put things in perspective, last week Wendy Petersen Biorn of the Carver County Historical Society shared this except from Andrew Peterson’s diary dated January 1885:

“Today it is very cold—more than 40 below—so cold that the quicksilver (mercury) froze. The boys did the chores, and in the afternoon, Carl went to Waconia to get the mail.”

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