Cold Weather Tragedy In Duluth, MN & Hypothermia Related To Extreme Cold Dec 11, 2013

We’ve seen some tremendously cold temperatures lately in sections of the northern United States.  Crane Lake in International Falls, MN, reached to -33° for a morning low yesterday, and was the coldest temperature in the nation.  Park Rapids, MN, was -29° this morning, also the coldest in the nation.

This after a recent cold snap also in northern Minnesota that has led to a tragic situation involving a young lady & college student.  Essentially on her way home from a night out with friends, she ended up at the wrong house and passed out.

The temperature that night reached down to -18° and she ended up spending the night outside, now suffering from horrendous side effects related to frostbite.

You can find more information from our affiliate KARE in Minneapolis by clicking here.

That is a horrible situation, and our thoughts go out to that young lady and we wish her the best possible scenario for her recovery.

The cold continues, however, and this morning’s extreme cold combined with that recent story got me thinking.

I was walking around for a few minutes with wind chills near -28° (estimated), while wearing a face mask, a thick ear-flap hat, a thick pea coat, winter boots, etc.  The only exposed spots?  A few square inches on my face.  Within minutes those few square inches were stinging from the cold.  Gradually, the cold penetrated my typically stout jacket.

So this begs the question – how much cold can the body withstand?

We’ve all seen the wind chill charts (I assume), but we’ll post the National Weather Service’s chart right here:



Looking at that chart, I’m thankful to have only been outside for a few minutes.  -28° wind chill values can get you frostbite within 30 minutes.

What about hypothermia, though?  What temperature does your body have to get to for that to take place?  What are the symptoms?

Let’s start with symptoms, these are from the CDC:

Early Symptoms
  • Shivering
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of coordination
  • Confusion and disorientation
Late Symptoms
  • No shivering
  • Blue skin
  • Dilated pupils
  • Slowed pulse and breathing
  • Loss of consciousness

So what about temperatures?

According to MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia here is how hypothermia is defined: Hypothermia is dangerously low body temperature, below 95 °F

Here are some key “Do Nots” according to the same article:

  • Do NOT assume that someone found lying motionless in the cold is already dead.
  • Do NOT use direct heat (such as hot water, a heating pad, or a heat lamp) to warm the person.
  • Do NOT give the person alcohol!

Things to keep in mind as we wait for warmer weather to move into large stretches of the nation.


WeatherNation Meteorologist Aaron Shaffer @ashafferWNTV

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