After having lived and worked in North Dakota since 2011, this Winter of 2017-2018 feels like the coldest to me.
On January 1, 2018 I had to drive past the town of Hettinger, North Dakota on my way to work in the very early morning, my job site was not far from there. The National Weather Service reported that at this time, Hettinger was the absolute coldest place on Earth, at -41 degrees Fahrenheit. Yes, the coldest place on Earth, go look it up, here is one link http://cool987fm.com/a-city-in-north-dakota-reached-the-coldest-temperature-on-earth-for-jan-1-2018/
When I got out of my truck that morning, it did not feel that bad, because it was absolutely still. However, you could tell that it was very cold.
Through December and January, we keep having these -17 degree Fahrenheit days, with some amount of wind, and it is just miserable. I don’t want to go to any store, I don’t want to go to the gym, I don’t want to go anywhere, for any reason. I just sit inside my apartment.
One of the reasons that I don’t want to go anywhere, is because of a lifetime of experience. I have had to work on a broken down vehicle in the snow, ice, and wind more than several times in the past, and I don’t want to ever have to do this again.
I have one extra vehicle at the apartment where I live, and in order not to take up a parking space in front of the building, I park it on the street. The rule in the City of Dickinson, is that you can’t leave a vehicle parked on the street for more than 48 hours. So every two days, I have to start and move my extra vehicle. When it is above 0 degrees, it starts fine. When it is below 0 degrees, I have to get my battery jump start box, and connect it to the vehicle battery to start it.
Walking out to my vehicle with thermal underwear on under my pants, a hoodie under my heavy winter jacket, and gloves on, wiping the snow off the windows and hood, trying to start it, opening the hood, picking up the battery jump box, making the battery cable connections, and getting back inside my vehicle, my fingers were too numb to feel the ignition key and hold on to it to turn the ignition.
From experience, like the one that I just described above about jump starting my vehicle, I know that this cold weather in North Dakota can be very, very dangerous. When you are outside in this weather, it does not take long, just a matter of minutes, before you can begin to have severe pain and numbness in your feet and hands. Even with gloves on, I began to have pain and numbness in my fingers, to where I could not feel or hold onto a car key.
Some North Dakotans would want to call “bullshit” on this. Let me tell you about this. A company that I have worked for in the past in North Dakota, called me at the beginning of February to ask if I could work for them 36 hours per week. I asked on what days, and I said no that I couldn’t, though I would like to. I said that a friend of mine, who has also worked for them in the past, needed a job, so I would call him, and try to get him to do it.
This friend of mine, who is older than me and has lived in Dickinson for his entire life, had just had a conversation with me where he was telling me, “It never bothered me to work out in the cold. I mean, you have to dress for it, but it never bothered me any.”
On his first or second day of work at this job that I told him about, where he had to spend 85% of his time in either the vehicle or a building, and only 15% of the time outside, he called me and talked to me for several minutes about how cold it was, how unbelievably cold it was, how horribly cold it was.
I want to conclude this blog post with a strong warning about some things that you need to do in North Dakota during the Winter. Everyone needs to dress for what the weather is outside, not what you expect it to be like in the vehicle you are riding in, or the building that you are going to. You may be involved in a vehicle accident or a vehicle break-down before you arrive at your destination, and may not have a warm or running vehicle to stay in.
Women, teenagers, and children in North Dakota have the bad habit of dressing for where they are going, like a warm building, business, or house, and they are very under-dressed for being outside. It is exactly the case, that they are expecting someone else to drive by and rescue them, or come and get them if they have an emergency. This is a bad idea.
If you own a vehicle, I recommend buying a good quality hand-carry battery jump box, one that is rated at least for 800 peak amps, to keep in your vehicle. These cost about $80, and they often have a built-in air compressor and emergency light. I have jump started other people’s vehicles and trucks about five times with mine, and about twenty times on my own vehicles and lawn mower.
Probably the most important thing to keep in your vehicle in the winter in North Dakota is a heavy sleeping bag. If your vehicle does break down in the winter in North Dakota, and you think that you might have to walk more than 1/8 mile in below 0 degree Fahrenheit weather, you should probably try to stay in your vehicle. Even if you were wearing thermal underwear, a heavy winter jacket, winter shoes, and winter gloves, you would become extremely cold after walking 1/8 of a mile.