Welcome to the 'Icebox of the Nation!' Minnesota town hits a record at 40 below zero

By JEFF BAENEN

Associated Press Writer

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- It lived up to its name: The temperature in International Falls fell to 40 below zero Monday, just a few days after the northern Minnesota town won a federal trademark making it officially the "Icebox of the Nation."

It was so cold that resident Nick McDougall couldn't even get his car trunk lid to close after he got out his charger to kick-start his dead battery. By late morning, the temperature had risen all the way to 18 -- below zero.

"This is about as cold as it gets, this is bad. There's no wind -- it's just cold," said McDougall, 48, a worker at The Fisherman, a convenience store and gas station in the town on the Canadian border. "People just don't go out, unless you have to go to work."

Residents of the area use electric engine block heaters to keep their cars from freezing.

"You plug in your car, for sure, and you put the car in the garage if you can," McDougall said. His garage is full of other things, so he had to park outside -- a "big mistake."

The previous record low in International Falls was 37 below, set in 1967, said meteorologist Mike Stewart at the weather service in Duluth. The cold was expected, he said: "When the winds finally died off and the skies cleared off, it just dropped."

The temperature also fell to 40 below in Embarrass, 80 miles southeast of International Falls. That's just one degree above the all-time record in Minneapolis, 250 miles to the south, that was set in January 1888, the weather service said.

Chilly air also spread into the Northeast on Monday and many schools in New York state between Buffalo and Syracuse closed or opened late. Single-digit temperatures plus high wind drove the wind chill factor to nearly 20 below across much of upstate New York.

Philadelphia had a "Code Blue" alert in effect, sending outreach crews to coax homeless people into shelters. Monday's low of 10 above zero.

Farther south, freezing rain hit southwest Missouri early Monday, making roads hazardous and losing schools. A coating of ice up to an inch thick was expected across much of southern and central Missouri, the weather service said.

"It's treacherous. If you can stay home this morning, do it," Missouri Highway Patrol Sgt. Dan Bracker said in Springfield.

Thousands of West Virginia homes and businesses had no electricity Monday after the state was hit by weekend wind gusts of up to 55 mph. At least nine counties closed schools because of power outages and the cold -- the mountain city of Elkins had a low of 6 above.

Classes also were canceled Monday for a number of schools in Michigan, which remained in a deep freeze after a weekend of single-digit temperatures and gusty wind. One death was blamed on the weather.