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Cold comfort: Weather could be colder

(Jesse Trelstad/ Grand Forks Herald)

It's bitterly cold in Grand Forks—but it could be a lot worse.

Christmas Day temperatures might have been low—setting the coldest Dec. 25 numbers in more than 20 years—but despite upcoming chilly weather, it's nowhere close to truly historically frigid.

National Weather Service forecasts have subzero temperatures through Thursday, when the high is just 4 degrees, and lows as cold as minus 25 through the rest of the week. But none of the cold is expected to break records. From Dec. 27 to Jan. 5, record low temperatures range from negative 30 to negative 37 degrees—far lower than the coldest low temp forecast so far, which is negative 23 degrees on Dec. 31.

So far, it hasn't been much of a record-breaking winter, either. Grand Forks' meteorological winter is December, January and February weather service meteorologist Tom Grafenauer said. So taking the average temperature of what we have so far—Dec. 1 through Dec. 25—comes to 17.2 degrees. If that holds for the average December temperature, it's only the 94th coldest on record, stretching all the way back to records that begin in 1893.

"Nowhere near the coldest so far," Grafenauer said. "December started out—especially the first half started out pretty warm. We've only been cold relatively few days compared to the entire month."

But despite the lack of record-setting cold, it's important to be aware of the dangerous cold. The weather service in Grand Forks has issued a wind chill warning that will remain in effect until noon Wednesday, based on anticipated wind chills of 25 to 40 below zero. Additional wind chill advisories may be issued later in the week, between Thursday and Monday.

And wind chills could intermittently swoop as low as negative 40 or even negative 50 degrees in the region before Jan. 5, Grafenauer said. At those temperatures, frostbite can set in after as little as just five minutes.

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