MINNEAPOLIS -- Thermometers on Friday morning inched above zero for the first time in 78 hours in the Twin Cities as the Polar Vortex that has kept the state on ice all week released some of its grip.
The mercury at 6 a.m. reached 1 above zero at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the official weather reporting station for the metro area. The temperature also hit 1 degree at the National Weather Service's offices in Chanhassen, said meteorologist Tyler Hasenstein.
"This part of the polar vortex is gone, and it's not coming back this weekend," he said.
Thermometers across the state also ventured into positive territory early Friday, with Appleton checking in with 7 degrees above. That was the warm spot in the state. Other readings included 5 degrees at Olivia and 4 degrees in Hutchinson, Glencoe and Granite Falls. Metro area readings included 3 degrees in Lakeville, 2 degrees in Eden Prairie and 1 degree in Crystal and Blaine.
There was still plenty of cold air across far northern Minnesota with minus-26 degrees in Ely and minus-24 degrees in Eveleth coming in with the state's coldest reading.
With temperatures on the rise and windchills on the decline, public schools in most places were back in session Friday after an unscheduled four-day break. That was not the case for secondary students in Morris, Minn. A boiler problem will keep 6th to 12th grade students out of class until Tuesday, the district said in a posting on its Facebook page.
As the mercury cracked zero, water pipes cracked, too. The Dakota County Sheriff's Office Administrative Office in Hastings is expected to reopen Friday after a water pipe burst Thursday. A water main break sent water flowing into the streets in Stillwater on Thursday, the city reported.
The long stretch of below-zero temperatures was hardly a record. In 2014, the Twin Cities endured more than 90 consecutive hours below zero, Hasenstein said.
With Saturday being Groundhog Day and the halfway point of astronomical winter, Punxsutawney Phil will emerge from the ground and predict what is in store through February and March. According to the legend, if the groundhog sees his shadow, then there will be six more weeks of winter. If he doesn't, then an early spring and above-average temperatures are on the way.
Is Phil reliable? "Not usually," Hasenstein said.
A warmup into the 30s is expected over the weekend and a slight cool down is forecast for Tuesday through Thursday with high temperatures falling back into the teens. There is a chance of rain, freezing drizzle, sleet and snow from Saturday night into Monday, the weather service said.
As for the long-range forecast, the outlook is for below-normal temperatures for the next several weeks, but nothing as brutal as this week's deep freeze, Hasenstein said. Average high temperatures by the end of the month are in the mid- to upper 20s.
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