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Dakotas home to cold cities

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- Let's face it: Anyone who survives a winter in the Dakotas deserves an award. A T-shirt, maybe?

Er, make that a sweatshirt.

With temperatures hitting the single digits, there's no denying that it's mighty cold out -- and we're just getting started. So it's little surprise that a recent online ranking claims that six of the eight coldest cities in the country are in North Dakota and South Dakota.

In fact, John Martin, warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Bismarck, thinks there should be even more North Dakota cities among the Daily Beast's list of 25 coldest cities. The list, which has made the rounds on Twitter and Facebook this week, ranks Grand Forks, Bismarck and Fargo second through fourth, respectively.

"Minot and Williston would probably beat out Bismarck for cold, and only because they get the cold air first," Martin said.

The only place colder than North Dakota, according to the Daily Beast's list? Fairbanks, Alaska.

Three South Dakota cities also made the list. Watertown, Aberdeen and Sioux Falls were all noted for their bone-chilling temperatures.

The Daily Beast posting indicates it used data from the 2009 winter for the rankings, but it's not clear why its tally appears at odds with meteorologists' expectations -- or what criteria were used when determining what constitutes a city.

Minot has a population of about 41,000, while Williston has about 15,000 residents, according to the 2010 census. Both Wasilla, Alaska, with a population of less than 8,000, and St. Albans, Vermont -- population 7,000 -- made the top 25.

The Daily Beast did not respond to an email seeking clarification.

Asked if he had recommendations for someone wanting to visit North Dakota at this time of year, Martin was quick to answer: "I recommend they come in the summer months."

For some North Dakota residents, it's a point of pride each spring when they dig themselves out from beneath mounds of snow and allow their skin to have contact with outside air for the first time in months.

"There are a lot of negatives to it, but the positives, jeez, if you can survive a Dakota winter, boy, that's one you can brag about for the rest of your life," Martin said.

A bell ringer for the Salvation Army in Sioux Falls, Diane LeGrand spends 10 hours at a time outside. She didn't need a list to tell her how cold it gets -- but she doesn't mind.

"This isn't bad," LeGrand, 51, said as temperatures dipped below 20 degrees during a recent shift. LeGrand wasn't even wearing her gloves or scarf.

People who grew up in South Dakota are used to sub-zero temperatures every winter, she said.

Some native South Dakotans have even grown to downright dislike the heat.

Aberdeen Mayor Mike Levsen recalled how uncomfortable he felt when the thermometer hit 105 during a trip to Phoenix.

"There's only a certain level you can go in taking clothes off," he said. "But when it's cold, as long as you add layers, there's nothing you can't do to put more layers on and stay warm."