First responders brave arctic blast, bitter cold

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ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) -The polar vortex has the midwest facing life-threatening cold with the threat of wind chills as low as 65 degrees below zero, a once in a generation cold outbreak. Temps are expected to plunge to their lowest levels in more than two decades, conditions likely to last for several days.

While most of us can avoid going outside, first responders are ready to go for an emergency, despite the weather making frostbite possible to exposed skin in as little as five minutes.

“You kind of clench a little bit,” said K.C. Clark, a Rochester firefighter.

At fires like late Monday night in southwest Rochester, Rochester Fire Department sends twice as many firefighters so they can rotate out of the elements and keep warm.

“You’re warm at first, but when you start sweating within the first few minutes, you’re gonna be cold underneath as well,” said Clark.

The scene can get dangerously slippery in these below-zero temps, partly because they have to keep their fire hoses running to avoid them from freezing up.

“Anything gets wet, then everything freezes to the ground. even the hose lines get froze up, they grab the snow, so everything is three times heavier than they actually are,” said Capt. Greg Neumann of RFD.

Responders are stressing “if you don’t have to be out. Don’t go out.” If you do, be prepared.

“Jumper cables, maybe some extra clothing, battery charger for your cell phone, as well as a shovel, just in case you get stuck in snow that you might be able to get yourself out of,” said Sgt. John Mitchell of the Rochester Police Department.

Police say me one of their biggest challenges in the winter is getting to calls in a timely manner.

Linda Ha

Linda Ha

Reporter | @LindaHaTV | lha@kttc.com

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