Sunday, January 24, 2010

Vikes Hangover (and a candy-coating of snow)

Update: 10:30 am, Monday morning

Light snow continues to fall, whipped up by gusty (30 mph) winds howling from the northwest, creating near-blizzard conditions across the Red River Valley. In general: the farther north/west you drive across the state, the worse driving conditions will be today. I'm still thinking 1-2" of powdery, fluffy snow - prone to blowing and drifting. Visibilities will be low, near white-out conditions. Leave extra time to get home later today. Conditions improve tomorrow as flurries taper but prepare for the coldest spell of weather in over 2 weeks: highs stuck in single digits and teens with a wind chill dipping to -15 to -20 F at times. Not as nasty-numbing as the first week of January, but close, a subtle yet blunt reminder that THIS is the DEAD OF WINTER!

"Nothing like a good football team to distract Minnesotans from the weather brewing outside...."

- close friend (who wishes to remain anonymous)

I doubt I'm the only one drained, mentally-exhausted, hoarse from screaming at my TV set Sunday evening. I love football, but after the 5th (Vikings) turnover I was purple alright, apoplectic with crazy-rage, pacing like an expectant father. The sight of Favre limping off the field: like a punch in the gut. What a game. We can be very proud of our team, in spite of the final score. It may have been the most exciting, most even-matched game of the year. Oh yeah, the weather. Speaking of screaming, I'm not sure if it was a screaming jet stream wind direct from Texas (or Vikes fever) that melted 3" of snow Saturday, triggering mostly-rain on what is historically one of the coldest days of the entire year. A total of .60" of rain fell on the St. Cloud area Saturday, .23" in the Twin Cities; had the mercury been 3-5 degrees colder (throughout the lowest mile of the atmosphere) we would have picked up 2-4" of wet snow Saturday, instead of accumulating puddles and drippy icicles. On Sunday a surge of dry air aloft (the dreaded "dry tongue") cut off the heaviest snow amounts, sparking more flurries/drizzle than real precipitation. So snow lovers are feeling especially unlucky and unloved - an almost March-like rain event Saturday, and by the time the atmosphere is finally cold enough for snow, an invasion of dry air from Arizona chokes off the storm, like bad fuel gumming up a vehicle's carburetor. Oh well, it just wasn't in the cards over the weekend, but we will wind up with a little fresh snow for our trouble: an inch or two may accumulate today and tonight as moisture from the Gulf of Mexico wraps entirely around a Great Lakes storm, approaching from the NORTH. With temperatures tumbling through the 20s into the teens the salt/sand mixture put down by MnDOT plows won't be nearly as effective (as when the mercury is closer to 30 F.) and many roads will become snow-covered as the day goes on. Leave a few extra minutes to get home by late afternoon - we all realize it doesn't take much snow to produce gridlock on the highways. TIMING is almost as important as the actual amount of snow. Even a minor fender-bender, at the wrong intersection, at precisely the wrong time, can bring rush hour traffic to a grinding halt. We've seen worse (I'm thinking travel conditions around Christmas Eve/Day) but I think travel will be negatively impacted, especially PM hours today into tonight.

A rerun of parka & coat weather! Forecast for wake-up temperatures Wednesday morning, ranging from -5 F. in St. Cloud to 1 above in the Twin Cities. Yes, our pleasant little midwinter daydream, our weather honeymoon is drawing to a close - no more soothing, reasonable Pacific breeze looking out for the next 5-6 days. Although not as cold as early January, expect a colder than average week (by a few degrees). No records, nothing controversial - just classic cold Minnesota weather as we finish what is historically the coldest week of the entire year. To see the latest graphical forecasts looking out 7 days for Minnesota and the entire USA click over to NOAA right here.

One fickle mid-winter storm. Saturday temperatures (aloft) too warm for snow across most of Minnesota, then a surge of dry air cutting off snow Sunday (except for the Minnesota Arrowhead, where 3-8" piled up closer to the Lake Superior shoreline). Today moisture wrapping completely around the storm, approaching from the north, will spark a period of accumulating snow, maybe an inch or two by late Monday night. We will have something to show for this storm in terms of snow, but not much. To see the very latest (high-res) weather map click here.

Barely "plowable". The NAM weather model is hinting at more snow east of St. Cloud, less west, maybe 1-2" by late tonight. The rest of the week looks fairly dry, future storms sliding off well south/west of Minnesota through the weekend.

Big ouch! I guess it was as inevitable as gravity & taxes: with long nights and plenty of snow on the ground across Canada and the northern tier states of the USA there is still plenty of potential for bitter air to build to our north and seep south of the border. Daytime highs will be stuck in the teens for daytime highs most of this week, at least 4-5 nights below zero - but not as bitter as it was at the beginning of the month.

February thaw? The 15-day GFS model brings milder Pacific air back into Minnesota by the first week of February, the coldest, subzero air dammed up a few hundred miles to our north. No prolonged, subzero outbreaks are in sight right now.

A reinforcing jab of even colder air will brush Minnesota by Thursday/Friday - the core of the coldest air aimed at the Great Lake and New England. The pattern won't be ripe for significant precipitation (of any flavor) looking out the next 10-15 days or so - I could see a nuisance snowfall one week from today - so you won't have to do any serious shoveling or scraping anytime soon. Consider clearing any slush off your driveway or sidewalk today, because within 24 hours or so it'll become a permanent part of your yard as the mercury dwindles towards zero. The last arctic front? Hardly, but I still maintain the worst of winter is in our rear-view mirror. That may be wishful thinking on my part, but with daylight increasing by 1-2 minutes/day and El Nino nudging upper-level steering winds into more of a Pacific-favored, west-to-east flow, the odds of sustained, subzero (highs) drop off fairly quickly during the month of February. I think it's safe to say "the worst is over", but there's still plenty of winter left to enjoy/endure.

Paul's Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Windy with light snow, maybe 1-2" - roads becoming slippery. Winds: NW 15-30. High: 27 (early) falling to 20 by the dinner hour.

Tonight: Partial clearing, colder with wind chills dipping to -20 at times. Low: 2

Tuesday: Flurries giving way to cold sun. High: 12

Wednesday: Blue sky, colder than average. High: 10

Thursday: Intervals of sun, passing flakes, still storm-free. High: 9

Friday: Mix of clouds and sun, last nippy day. High: 12

Saturday: Partly sunny, not as numbing. High: 119

Sunday: Clouds increase, flurries late. High: 23

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