- Associated Press - Thursday, February 6, 2014

HELENA, Mont. (AP) - Record-breaking cold air covered the state of Montana early Thursday, prompting some residents to take to Twitter to discuss the frigid temps and challenge the cold-hardiness of people living in the southeastern part of the country.

The National Weather Service reported the state’s low temperature Thursday morning was 50 below at Elk Park north of Butte. Wind chills dipped as low as minus 56 in Livingston.

Several Montana residents tweeted screen shots of their phones’ weather apps with negative double-digit temperatures, while others suggested that weather this cold would draw a National Guard response in Georgia.

On Wednesday, with the wind chill hovering around minus 31, two Loyola High School students stopped at the Big Dipper ice cream shop in Missoula for cones with two scoops, the Missoulian reported. Katya Hall and Garrett Dutton weren’t wearing heavy coats, hats or mittens.

Dutton had hoped to stop for coffee, but Hall had the money and a different plan.

“Instead of hot coffee, we’re getting ice cream,” she said.

The weather did cause some problems though.

Montana State University Billings canceled classes for Thursday over issues with heating the campus.

The university is on an interruptible natural gas contract. A natural gas shortage caused by the recent nationwide cold snap led MSU Billings to switch to its propane backup system.

Facilities services director Jason McGimpsy tells The Billings Gazette that the backup system was “kicking out on us throughout the day” Wednesday, leading university officials to close school offices on Wednesday and offices and classes on Thursday.

If the backup system went out, the entire campus would be without heat, McGimpsy said.

“The whole country’s 20 below today, or something like that,” he said Wednesday. “All the gas in the system, everything across the country combined is just using it all up.”

Classes were expected to resume Friday morning.

“We’re hoping we can get it back online,” McGimpsey said. “We’re just being cautious. The less people we have on campus, the better.”

The National Weather Service said record cold temperatures of at least 30 below were reported across the state, including in Bozeman, Dillon, Fort Benton, Great Falls, Lewistown and West Yellowstone. It fell to 34 below in Great Falls, shattering the old mark of 28 below set 121 years ago in 1893. West Yellowstone’s minus 47 tied a 100-year-old record.

Several Montana school districts cancelled classes or delayed the start of the school day due to the cold, power outages or boiler issues.

Warmer weather was expected to return to the state by the weekend.

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