After spending over 250 hours below zero, Wadena is expected to see a roughly 60 degree swing over the week and could see some melting with highs above freezing next Monday.

Our coldest temperature, not counting windchill, arrived shortly after Valentine’s Day exited with a temperature of 33 below zero on Monday morning. It’s believed the state set a new daily low record on Saturday, Feb. 13, when Ely saw an air temperature of 50 below zero, according to the National Weather Service.

So what did the high pressure system of frigid temperatures do to the area?

On a national level, electricity usage skyrocketed for those areas of the country not typically seeing freezing temperatures and it had an impact on other electrical grids throughout the country. At our neighbors to the west in Moorhead, Moorhead Public Service was experiencing rolling blackouts approximately every 30 minutes to compensate for power shortages in the central and southern U.S. related to severe winter weather. The blackouts started around 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 16, and were occurring until further notice, the public service said in a news release.

The sun gleams through exhaust vapor on a -20 degree morning on Tuesday, Feb. 16.
Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal
The sun gleams through exhaust vapor on a -20 degree morning on Tuesday, Feb. 16. Rebecca Mitchell/Pioneer Journal

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Meanwhile, our area saw steady power, adjusted slightly for high use. Wadena’s power supply through the municipality was keeping up well, according to Utility Superintendent David Evans.

“We’re controlling as hard as we normally would,” Evans said Tuesday as temperatures hung around 6 below zero. That includes controlling off-peak systems such as shutting down water heaters or turning off heating systems used to heat storing devices, like in-floor heat, during peak usage. They further shut electric heat off if on a dual fuel system for high-use periods, switching over to your other heating source. Power is restored during off-peak hours. For example, if you have a heating source that includes heat storage such as bricks, that would use power during the night and the bricks would then continue to release that energy throughout the day without the need for electricity during the peak times of daylight when we're lighting up schools, running factories and powering our vast technology. This method is similar to what Todd-Wadena Electric Cooperative does during these heavy usage periods, according to TWEC member services manager Allison Uselman.

Using “peak shaving” helps distribute the power and limit non-essential power use mostly to industrial or commercial facilities. Uselman said by doing this, the quality of power was never in question during the peak usage.

“There is no concern on our end about the quality of power,” Uselman said Tuesday. TWEC gets its power through Great River Energy.

Evans, likewise, had a warm feeling about the city utility.

“We haven't gotten any indication that it’s to its limits and we have to go over and above what we normally do,” Evans said of Wadena’s power. “We’re doing well. I’m happy.”

Just after 8 a.m. Friday, Feb. 12, exhaust vapor filled the intersection of Hwy 10 and 71 as temperatures stood at about -23 degrees.
Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal
Just after 8 a.m. Friday, Feb. 12, exhaust vapor filled the intersection of Hwy 10 and 71 as temperatures stood at about -23 degrees. Michael Johnson/Pioneer Journal

Evans said they see the weather patterns coming and prepare for them. He was thankful that the system was doing as well as it was considering the length of the cold.

Uselman added that while we can feel good about having reliable energy in these times, the bill will be a bit heavier next cycle.

“Even when it warms up the bill is going to come,” Uselman said. “Energy bills are going to be up.”

You may heat your home with fuel, but if a fan blows that heat from its source, there’s a good chance it was blowing almost constantly for much of this month.

The plus side is that last month, January 2021, had the third warmest average January temperatures on record, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Forks. With February just half over, it’s hard to say what the rest of this winter may have in store for us.

A sun dog was spotted just outside Wadena last week.
Photo courtesy Heather Lehmkuhl, Wadena
A sun dog was spotted just outside Wadena last week. Photo courtesy Heather Lehmkuhl, Wadena

Wadena weather

The Wadena area was below zero consistently for the last 12 days and roughly 257 hours, but who’s counting? According to the National Weather Service and Accuweather historical data, we remained below zero during most of the following 12 days.

  • Tuesday, Feb. 16: L -31 H 2
  • Monday, Feb. 15: L -33 H -2
  • Sunday, Feb. 14: L -27 H -11
  • Saturday, Feb. 13: L -33 H -9
  • Friday, Feb. 12: L -26 H -7
  • Thursday, Feb. 11: L -21 H -5
  • Wednesday, Feb. 10: L -17 H -6
  • Tuesday, Feb. 9: L -23 H -5
  • Monday, Feb. 8: L -26 H -6
  • Sunday, Feb. 7: L -24 H -9
  • Saturday, Feb. 6: L -20 H -8
  • Friday, Feb. 5: L -8 H 3