Human beings need to maintain a constant body temperature if they are to stay healthy. Working in high temperatures induces heat stress when more heat is absorbed into the body than can be dissipated out. Heat illness such as prickly heat, fainting from heat exhaustion, or heat cramps are visible signs that people are working in unbearable heat. In the most severe cases, the body temperature control system breaks down altogether and body temperature rises rapidly. This is a heat stroke, which can be fatal. The National Weather Service (NWS) issues a heat advisory when, during a 24-hour period, the Heat Index ranges from 105 to 114-degrees during the day, and remains at or above 80¬degrees at night.
Wintertime in St. Louis County can be a most brutal time, and especially dangerous for our disabled citizens and outdoor workers. Record temperature lows and arctic-like wind chill factors can cause cold-related illness such as frostbite and hypothermia, which can be deadly. Hypothermia is the greatest and most life-threatening cold weather danger.
In St. Louis County cold winter weather can have severe or fatal impacts. Hypothermia occurs when core body temperature drops below 96¬degrees Fahrenheit (F). Anyone who is exposed to severe cold without enough protection can develop hypothermia. Frostbite occurs when skin tissue and blood vessels are damaged from exposure to temperatures below 32-degrees F. It most commonly affects the toes, fingers, earlobes, chin, cheeks, nose, and other body parts that are often left uncovered in cold temperatures. The National Weather Service (NWS) issues a wind chill warning when wide spread wind chills of 60-degrees below zero of lower with winds greater than 10 M.P.H are expected.
Extreme Temperatures History
Summer temperatures in St. Louis County rarely reach the point were a heat advisory is warranted. Summer temperatures inland away from Lake Superior can reach 80 to 90 degrees F for periods of time. However, extremely hot summer temperatures typically do not tend to last for long periods of time. In August of 2001, temperatures remained high for a period of time resulting in five reported heat related deaths.
The primary population of concern is the elderly. These residents are more vulnerable to heat stroke and may not always take in proper amounts of fluid or dress in light clothing because their bodies do not sent as strong a signal that helps them respond to high temperatures. Another vulnerable group is younger residents involved in athletic activities. Further, air conditioning to cool a residence is not as wide spread in North Eastern Minnesota compared to other parts of the state and country, as a result of the typically mild summer temperatures. This may exacerbate heat related problems at lower temperatures than other parts of the state that have the option of going to an air-conditioned room.
Below zero temperatures occur almost every winter for a period of time. Extreme cold was documented in 1994, 1995, 1996, and 1997. No deaths were reported. The winter of 2002-2003 was one of the driest winters on record. Limited snow cover combined with long cold spells of sub-zero temperatures impacted a large number of septic systems and water pipes due to frost that went deeper than normal throughout St. Louis County.