The Twin Cities metro hasn't felt this cold in decades

Well...there's no nice way to put this, it is really, really cold out.  

Our much anticipated arctic front dropped across the Midwest Tuesday, kicking up the winds, blowing the snow and dropping wind chills to levels we have not seen in a long time. As temperatures tumbled, the winds gusted upwards of 35 miles per hour, which made it feel just that much colder. 

Wind chills dropped to 57 degrees below zero in the Twin Cities just before midnight. That was the coldest the metro has felt since the late 1970s. 

Actual air temperatures in the 21st century and the 1990s have been colder. Hitting minus 32 in 1996 is just one of several occasions. 

But, it is the winds this time around that has made it feel even colder than it did on those frigid mornings. The wind chill is calculated to give you an idea of what temperatures actually feel like when factoring in the wind. This “feel” comes from cold dry air whisking away heat and moisture off your skin, making it far more effective at cooling your body. That is why arctic temperatures are often bearable when there is little or no wind.

Frostbite within five minutes 

With wind chills dropping to 40 or 50 below zero, frostbite is possible in less than five minutes.

Frostbite can cause swelling, blistering and discoloration of the fingers, ears and toes and in extreme cases, can even lead to losing those extremities. Experts say the best way to avoid freezing your extremities is to wear proper winter clothing and minimize the time you spend outside, especially when the temperature is below zero.

Mail service suspended Wednesday

The U.S. Postal Service has suspended postal delivery Wednesday in Minnesota and western Wisconsin due to the extreme cold. There will be no collection mail pick up from businesses or collection boxes. There won't be residential or commercial package pick-ups either.

Local offices will have retails operations available, but they may be limited.

Natural gas, power outages

Power was out for customers in the south metro overnight Tuesday, although it had been restored to most homes by Wednesday morning.

 As of 8 a.m., Xcel Energy's outage map showed 37 outages affecting 290 customers. 

North of the Twin Cities metro, Xcel Energy is asking customers in Becker, Big Lake, Chisago City, Isanti, Lindstrom and Princeton to reduce their natural gas use to prevent widespread natural gas outages in the area. 

Customers are urged to turn their thermostat down to 60 degrees or lower and to reduce the use of natural gas appliances, including hot water, until further notice. 

Schools, businesses close for cold 

Due to the cold, most schools, colleges and universities in the metro have canceled classes for Tuesday and Wednesday.

Grocery stores, restaurants, museums and business are also closing their doors or sending employees home early. Even the Ice Castles in Excelsior have decided it is too cold to stay open.

The Minnesota Senate canceled all of its hearings scheduled for Wednesday. 

Emergency warming shelters open

In response to the dangerous weather conditions, additional sites are opening their doors as warming shelters to people in need.

For a list of Hennepin County warming shelters, click here.

The Salvation Army Harbor Light Center in downtown Minneapolis will be open 24 hours a day for anyone who needs protection from the elements. Salvation Army locations in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Brooklyn Park and Maplewood will be available as warming centers weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

Stay up to date during this week's winter weather by downloading the FOX 9 Weather App. It has the latest temperatures, snow totals, forecasts and school closings 24/7. 

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