Extreme windchills predicted this weekend in west central Minnesota
An especially cold weekend is ahead for west central Minnesotans, along with much of the state.
The National Weather Service issued a hazardous weather outlook Friday morning for 50 Minnesota counties, including Pope, Stearns, Lac qui Parle, Swift, Chippewa, Kandiyohi, Meeker, Yellow Medicine, Renville and Redwood.
Wind chills of 20 to 30 below zero are likely Saturday and Sunday morning, the weather service said. Snow is also possible Tuesday.
As of Friday morning, the region had already observed three days with a minimum temperature below zero, which is on par so far with January 2014, the year of the famously cold "polar vortex." That month had a total of 22 days with a minimum temperature below zero.
By comparison, there were only 9 days total in January 2016 with a minimum temperature below zero (pre-windchill).
Those extreme temperatures aren't set to stay. Already on Monday, temperatures in Willmar are predicted to reach a high of 17 degrees. Snow also could be in store—a 40 percent chance was predicted, rising to a 60 percent chance in the evening.
But 30 mph winds Tuesday could make a predicted high temperature of 20 degrees feel a whole lot colder.
Things are looking much more severe this weekend for the northern half of the state. The Weather Service issued a wind chill advisory Friday afternoon for fifteen counties, most along and north of I-94. The advisory was set to expire at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The Weather Service predicted that area would experience wind chills near 25 below zero during that time period.
"The cold wind chills will cause frostbite in as little as 30 minutes to exposed skin," the Service warned. "Cover exposed skin and have warm clothes with you if traveling."
The American Red Cross recommends bringing pets indoors during extremely cold weather or taking care to provide enough outside shelter to keep them warm. Over the past few days, the Willmar Police Department received several calls for welfare checks on animals. Several pet owners were told to bring their pets inside.
The National Weather Service is predicting a 36 percent chance that the average temperature for the next three months will be below normal in west central Minnesota, which is 18.4 degrees. But it's nearly as likely — 34 percent — that temperatures will average near normal in the three month span.