Bitter cold continues

HOUGHTON – Public schools, libraries and many other organizations were closed today, with 8 a.m. temperature readings as low as minus 15, and predicted wind chills in the minus 40 degrees range.

For schools in Houghton, Baraga, and Keweenaw counties, all of which follow the Copper Country Intermediate School District’s lead in when to close, this is the ninth closing this school year, more than any year in recent memory.

“This is all about kids outside in dangerous conditions waiting for buses,” CCISD Superintendent Dennis Harbour said this morning. “Whenever the National Weather Service issues a warning, we’ve got to be really alert to the conditions.”

Harbour said the CCISD starts monitoring conditions closely any time wind chills of minus 25 degrees or lower are predicted, and generally closes schools if morning wind chills are expected to be minus 30 degrees or less.

He said he and his staff pay special attention to predictions for between 7 and 8:30 a.m., when most students catch the bus.

At this point, many districts will have to schedule extra school days or hours to make up for closings beyond the six days allowed by the state. But safety is still the deciding factor.

The number of prior cancellations “has zero bearing on decisions on whether schools are going to go or not go,” Harbour said.

Jonathan Voss, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service Office in Negaunee Township, confirmed the reasoning behind the closings.

With wind chills this low, “You don’t want to be outside for more than about 10 minutes at a time,” he said. “You can get frostbite in 10 minutes or less.”

Elsewhere in the U.P., even a major highway has been shut down, with M-28 between Marquette and Munising closed due to whiteout conditions, according to the Michigan State Police Negaunee Post.

The Copper Country has avoided road closures so far, with the MSP Calumet Post reporting that while some back roads are a bit drifted in, all major trunk lines are in good shape.

Voss said the current cold snap will last into next week, but that today will be the worst of it.

“Tomorrow, temperatures will moderate some, but we still will have below-zero [lows] through early next week,” he said. “The first night not below zero would be Wednesday.”

There could be a small amount of snow over that period, he added, but winds won’t be as strong, leading to less dangerous conditions.

“Winds by this afternoon will be starting to decrease, which should eliminate a lot of blowing and drifting,” he said. “There’ll probably be no more road closings after today.”