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Dangerous cold in the Dakotas affects dozens of schools; concern for the homeless grows

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SIOUX FALLS, South Dakota — Extreme cold in the Dakotas prompted dozens of schools to delay classes or cancel them altogether Wednesday, while forecasters warned of potentially worse weather in the coming days.

The National Weather Service issued wind chill advisories and warnings early Wednesday for North Dakota and South Dakota, with the combination of arctic air and wind pushing wind chills into the minus 20s and 30s.

Exposed skin can freeze in a matter of minutes in such conditions, though Sioux Falls emergency room doctor Christopher Carlisle told KDLT-TV that most people who live in the region recognize the danger and take precautions.

"People around here are pretty smart, and when it starts to hurt, they go inside," he said.

However, after several days of frigid weather, there was growing concern for the homeless, KELO-TV reported.

"I have a military sleeping bag that is supposed to (protect) me to 30 to 40 below," said Mike Nelson, one of the estimated 600 homeless people in Sioux Falls. "I don't want to try that."

Nelson was spending the night at a shelter, but said he is concerned about people who don't have that opportunity.

"Most of the guys are pretty smart about it, but you have the ones that will come here intoxicated and then they are asked to leave," he said. "I worry about them and how they are going to get through the night."

The Sioux Falls YMCA was seeking donations of blankets, coats and other clothing through Friday to help people in need, KDLT reported.

The forecast calls for more icy temperatures into the weekend.

The weather service also has posted blizzard watches for southeastern South Dakota and northeastern North Dakota on Thursday. An inch of two of new snow, combined with what's on the ground and winds gusting to 50 mph, could create blizzard conditions and make travel treacherous, forecasters said.

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