By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Bundle up this weekend — or just stay inside — because the warmest it’s going to get is negative 4.

And that has viewers like Paul from Owatonna writing to us with memories of days on end where the temperature never went above zero.

He wanted to know: How long do our very cold snaps last? Good Question.

There’s something fascinating in going back to the WCCO archives, dusting off the old tapes and seeing not much has really changed when it comes to how we feel about temperatures below zero.

We broke into the vintage stuff because Phil from Menomonie sent us an email. He said he’s lived here almost 50 years and remembers stretches of eight to 10 days in a row below zero.

So WCCO’s Heather Brown culled through 57 years of National Weather Service data in search of those cold snaps.

And the most she could find was five days in the Twin Cities. It’s happened twice since 1960 — January 1963 and January 1970.

We’ve had a few four-day stretches — the last one in December of 1989.

But, if you’re looking for a better comparison to what’s in store for us…

“Look at this, I think we could spend the entire weekend below zero,” WCCO Chief Meteorologist Chris Shaffer said.

The two to three day stretches have happened 34 times since 1960. They were more common in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. The last one we had in the Twin Cities was that brutal winter of 2014.

So why does Chris think people sometimes think it was colder than maybe it really was?

“Well I think there’s a couple things to that. First of all, factually, if you want to find number of days below zero, days below freezing, historically most of them are back in the 1910s or the 1930s,” Chris said.

And we’re measuring the temperatures taken at MSP Airport.

“So yeah, the temperatures here don’t get as cold. Remember Cotton, [Wednesday], 41 below. We don’t get that here in Minneapolis,” Chris said.

To Chris’ point: Heather calculated the below zero numbers for Duluth. She found about twice as many cold snaps.

And there was one stretch in January of 1994 that lasted seven days.

  1. Thank you for the information. A few years ago we had the polar vortex (think that is what it was called) and I thought we had several days of temperatures well below zero during that cold spell.

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