Working In Fargo, N.D., Cold

Much of the country is in the midst of a bone-chilling cold spell. In Fargo, North Dakota, today, it was minus-20 degrees. Fargo patrol officer Mike Erbes talks about what it is like to try to patrol in weather this cold.

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MELISSA BLOCK, host:

News flash, it's cold in North Dakota. OK, it's winter and it is the great plains. But an item on the Associated Press caught our attention. A wave of severe cold - minus 20 during the day, minus 30 and lower at night - is forcing police officers in North Dakota to test drunk drivers indoors. Officer Mike Erbes is with the Fargo Police.

Officer MIKE ERBES (Fargo Police Department): As you'd expect, if you're out breaking into cars, that's not nearly as much fun when it's seventy below windchill, I'd say, as where - during the summertime when it's seventy degrees.

BLOCK: Yeah, it will be a little deterrent, I think.

Mr. ERBES: Correct. And so we see those types of crimes, they drop off significantly when the weather is cold.

BLOCK: You know, we were intrigued by this story that in North Dakota, there where you are in Fargo, it's too cold to test drunken drivers outside.

Mr. ERBES: Yeah. And it does happen here occasionally and what they're talking about are our standardized field sobriety tests. And now when the weather is so severe as it is, somebody who hasn't been drinking at all, who isn't dressed appropriate for the weather, they likely won't do as well.

BLOCK: So you're saying, if it's 30 below and the wind is blowing, somebody may not be able to stand on one leg whether they're sober or whether they're drunk.

Mr. ERBES: Sure. You know, a typical person who let's say, they went out for the evening and they had dinner and they - you know, whether they drank or not, I mean, if they're dressed for a nice evening out, they have dress shoes or high heels on, they maybe don't have a heavier coat or hats and gloves and face masks, things of that nature, just from you being cold, you may not perform as well on that test.

BLOCK: You were telling me before about when you first came to live in Fargo.

Mr. ERBES: Yeah. When I first came to live in Fargo and I moved here to go to college from Southern - southwestern part of Minnesota, there's a period of - and I don't remember the exact number, but it was like 35 days in a row where the temperature never got above zero and I - it made me really wonder about my decision to move here. Usually, about this time every year, I make a vow to move someplace where it doesn't get quite so cold and then the next year, I'm here making the same vow.

BLOCK: (Laughing) Well, Officer Erbes, good luck out there. Stay warm.

Mr. ERBES: All right. Thank you very much.

BLOCK: Thanks for talking with us.

Mr. ERBES: You betcha.

BLOCK: Bye-bye.

Mr. ERBES: Bye-bye.

BLOCK: That's Mike Erbes with the Fargo Police.

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