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Other views: Deep cold, like the ocean, demands respect

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It happens every winter across the upper Midwest. The temperatures plunge below zero; but you grew up here and come from hardy stock, so you don’t think much of it.

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At first.

Then you walk from the store to your car without wearing gloves. You keep the keys in your hand for that little stroll, too.

And when you get to your car, your fingers don’t function, so your keys clatter to the pavement.

Not every subzero eye-opener is that dramatic. Sometimes, it’s just the fact that your cheeks feel on fire from a two-minute exposure to the elements. Or your toes feel like pin-cushions, which tells you that even for this quick snow shoveling job, running shoes were a very bad choice.

However it happens, the awareness slaps you each year like an icy blast of wind:

Wow.

This cold is relentless. In fact, it is a life-threatening cold; and if you were out here without protection for more than a few minutes, you realize, you could be enveloped and taken down as surely as if you were drowning in a lake.

Of course we know this, all of us who live here. And yet, terrible things happen every year: People die from exposure. Doctors at Altru and elsewhere fight — at times in vain — to save frostbitten limbs.

Even today, hearts are breaking across the region with the story of Alyssa Jo Lommel, a University of Minnesota Duluth student who suffered hypothermia and severe frostbite after unfathomable hours in the subzero cold.

So: Do you have a “nag” in your family? OK, not really a nag, but a person who makes sure the car is loaded with blankets and other emergency supplies, even for that quick trip to Fargo? Or someone who frets about the threat even when indoors and makes sure loved ones don’t go out until they’re bundled up warm?

Maybe we should all be that person. For while each us generally does a good job of looking out for ourselves, our odds of avoiding tragedy go up when someone else is looking out for us, too.

Today, the temps are going to climb to a balmy 9 degrees, the National Weather Service reports.

But Saturday night, it’s going to be 15 below zero. That’s cold. That’s life-threatening cold. So stock the car (if you haven’t already), mind the forecast and watch over family and friends. And hey, as Sgt. Esterhaus used to say on “Hill Street Blues”: Let’s be careful out there.

The Grand Forks Herald’s Editorial Board formed this opinion.

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