BY Larry Kline/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Several young children had feared the loss of the Havre-Hill County Library's pet canary earlier this week because the bird was not seen roosting in its normal spot. There was no cause for concern, however, because the canary - named Birdy-Bird - has been moved from its usual spot near a doorway to an office to stay warm.
Many Havre residents are doing the same: hunkering down to deal with the season's first real cold snap, choosing to curl up indoors with a good book or movie. If they must go out into the cold for work or other reasons, Havreites are bundling up with extra layers to trap their body heat.
According to the National Weather Service, the low in Havre on Thursday night dropped to 39 degrees below zero and today the high is expected to reach 15 below. This morning, the wind chill was as low as 53 degrees below. Tonight the temperature is predicted to drop to 36 below.
The air will begin to warm on Sunday, with a predicted high of 3 degrees, before rising to 15 on Monday. The service was predicting highs in the low 40s by Tuesday.
Conrad Nystrom, who owns a ranch in the Bear Paws, was not fazed by the region's temperatures. He can remember working in conditions as cold as 45 below.
"This is kind of typical for this area; we just bundle up a little more," he said. Nystrom keeps his cattle warm by feeding them more throughout the day, as the animals generate energy by digesting food.
Tim Kinsella has been a mail carrier in Havre for 10 years and has dealt with wind chills as low as 70 below. He bundles up to deal with the frigid air.
"When it's this cold out I usually throw on a pair of snow pants and insulated overshoes," Kinsella said. "I wear three layers of clothing. If it gets really cold we wear face masks and scarves."
It becomes difficult to sort mail when wearing gloves, he said, and it sometimes takes him longer to complete his routes.
Mercedes Knapton, 10, carries papers for the Havre Daily News, delivering to businesses on Second and Third streets. Her parents drive her along the route, and she makes sure to dress warmly.
"I usually wear my snow pants," Knapton said. "I usually wear my scarf, my gloves, and I usually wear my snow boots."
Marge Langel, of Rudyard, also delivers for the paper, driving over 200 miles every day, delivering to over 300 customers. She makes sure to wear layered clothing, and carries a cell phone, tow rope and other supplies in her vehicle. Her husband, Doug, is her backup. She has slid off the road once, but said she is not worried about driving in rough conditions.
"I'm not too concerned about it," Langel said. "My husband is on the other end (of the phone) and he comes and rescues me."
Havre police officer Aaron Wittmer sometimes has to do the rescuing when it comes to helping out residents. He makes it a practice of helping out pedestrians.
"We try to keep an eye on people out walking," Wittmer said. "I myself try to offer rides because I don't want people to get hurt."
In cold weather, Wittmer receives added protection from his bulletproof vest. The Kevlar material traps body heat.
During cold spells the department sees an increase in animal control calls, as residents become concerned for the safety of pets that are usually kept outside.
Animal control officer Gordon Inabnit said the best strategy for keeping outdoor animals healthy in the cold is to provide them with three basics: food, water and shelter.
There is also an increase in domestic disturbance calls, Wittmer said, as people begin to argue more easily after being cooped up for longer periods of time.
Residents are searching for ways to stay entertained this weekend and are turning to books, movies and games.
Book traffic is up at the Havre-Hill County Library, said reference librarian Francine Brady, though people are not hanging around the building to use the internet as much.
Rick Linie, manager of Creative Leisure, said that book and music sales have been steady, while video rentals are up.
"Movie rentals have been terrific," he said. "In fact, virtually every night has been good for movies."
Resident Danielle Carlson said she will be staying out of the cold.
"We just hole up at home in front of the fire and rent movies or have some friends come over and play board games," she said.
Resident Dustin Murphy said he plans to stay in this weekend with a little console fun.
"I've got a lot of pople coming over to the house to play video games this weekend," he said.
Some students of Montana State University-Northern are welcoming the excuse to stay inside.
"Since the semester just started this week, we have a lot of homework," resident Cassie Coleman said. "it's a good time to stay in and do work. We also have two small children, so this will be a chance for them to stay inside and play with their Chistmas toys."