Friday, March 12, 2010

Mud & Pothole Season

* More than half an inch of rain has fallen at MSP since March 10.

* Nighttime lows have been consistently above freezing since March 6.

* March temperatures in the Twin Cities are running 6.5 F. warmer than average.

* March snowfall so far: 0 (zero!) Average March snow as of March 13: 6.5"

* Flood warnings posted for portions of the Minnesota, Red River and Crow Rivers from the NWS. The latest information is here.

Going....Going...Almost Gone. It's remarkable how quickly the snow has melted, nationwide, in just the last week. Blame (or thank) heavy rain, coupled with unusually mild temperatures. Cleveland, Ohio hit 70 on Thursday. Cleveland! The latest national/regional snow information is here.

We enjoyed our March Tournament Rain Event, now it's time for the March Tournament Fog-fest. Throw in a little drizzle, temperatures reaching the upper 40s later today - a typical day for LATE March. That's right, we just leapfrogged 2 weeks and went straight to March 27, give or take. So far we've had no snow in March. ZERO. Can't peg that on climate change, perhaps a symptom of El Nino, but odd nonetheless. The winter wasn't really all that bad, at least across central and northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. Half as many subzero nights as usual this past winter (I counted 15, normal is closer to 30). Based on heating degree days, the departure from 65 degrees (averaging high and low for the day) we've saved roughly 9% on heating bills this winter - versus an average winter. Whatever that is. No such thing as normal weather, especially in March: from tornadoes to floods to blizzards, and everything in-between. Last March only 1.5" fell the entire month, but March '08 brought over 18" of snow to MSP. Feast or famine. Flood or drought. Precious little in the middle these days.

24 Hour Precipitation. The heaviest, steadiest rains are winding down - mostly drizzle on tap for Saturday, but another .10" of rain can't be ruled out Sunday into Tuesday, as a stormy swirl in the upper atmosphere lingers over the Great Lakes and Upper Midwest. The chance of spying the sun increases by the middle of next week, enough snow will have melted to increase the odds of low 50s by then.

Potential for Problems. Check out the estimated rainfall (derived from NWS Doppler Radar) for Minnesota, showing some .5 to 1.5" amounts just south/west of the Twin Cities, with .75" up in the Fargo/Moorhead area. Not good. The most snow remains south and west of the Minnesota River - rain accelerates the snow melt, increasing eventual run-off into area rivers. Click here to see the latest 24 hour rainfall map for Minnesota.

Yes, it's been a gloomy stretch for over a week now, temperatures consistently above average. Consider this payback for nearly 3 sunny, quiet, tranquil weeks in a row from mid February through the first few days of March. A slow-motion storm pinwheeling just south of Minnesota will keep us in its soggy grip through Monday, possibly Tuesday. The heaviest, steadiest rains are over, but drizzle will leak out of a soggy sky today, some steadier rain may drift in (from the east!) tomorrow, showery rains hanging on into at least Monday. The mercury: consistently 10 degrees above average, and the first 50s of spring (there's a word I'm happy to see again - just saying "spring" makes me happy) just days away. If the sun peeks through the middle of next week low 50s are likely. By then we'll just be stuck with a few shrinking mounds of stubbly, gritty snow, looking more like something from an abandoned strip-mine than once-pristine Minnesota powder. Yes, melting snow isn't photogenic. No Norman Rockwell moments staring out your window in March. Welcome to Mud & Pothole Season, along with a few strategically placed "yard bombs". Hey, the dog was over HERE too! Be careful where you step.

Encouraging Trends. At least for a (vocal) majority of Minnesotans rooting on the arrival of spring. Will it be an early spring? Aren't we currently enjoying an early spring? By the middle of next week it will feel more like the first week of April, so I'd say we're having an early spring alright. Much above temperatures are predicted from March 16-20, a slight cool-down after March 21. Source: "Planalytics".

The good news: I don't see any bitter, arctic blasts, although the GFS model is hinting at 3-4 days with highs in the 30s between March 21 and 24. And don't write off accumulating snow just yet. The same model is suggesting the potential for rain changing to wet snow next weekend - even laying out a plausible scenario for a "plowable" snowfall from Saturday PM into Sunday, the 21st. It's way too early to panic (or celebrate) but let's just say I'll be amazed if we get through the entire month without enough snow to shovel (and plow). The odds are stacked against us. Too much cold air lingering over Canada (where there's still plenty of snow on the ground and the nights are still pretty long). You know when the snow will hit: when you see the first, struggling hints of green in your lawn. That's when you'll have to reach for the shovel. That's when Minnesotans lose their stoic sense of humor: fresh snow falling on newly-green lawns. That's when the snowbirds call, when a "southern address" starts to look like a good idea. But don't despair: even if it does snow, whatever falls will be mostly-gone within 1-2 days. The sun is too high in the sky for your lawn to stay white for long in mid/late March. It's not like a January snowfall, which seems to linger ad nauseum into infinity.

Approaching Flood State in St. Paul by the end of next week? Click here for the latest information about area rivers and streams.

I'm still worried about the potential for major flooding on area rivers. I don't profess to be a river forecaster - that's above my pay grade, out of my area of expertise, a challenge wrapped in a riddle as far as I'm concerned. The ingredients are still in place for very significant flooding, especially on the Red River and the Minnesota River. We've lost too much snow too quickly, coupled with significant rain the last week or so, and temperatures consistently above freezing, even at night. That's too many strikes against us, and the ramifications will become clear in the days and weeks ahead. As bad as last year? Possibly, especially in Fargo and Moorhead, but it's still too early to say with confidence. At the risk of sounding like a broken record (or skipping iPod, as my kids remind me) stay alert, and stay tuned for more warnings. There WILL be more flood warnings - I'm sure of that.

Party-Pooper. Yes, it's raining, it's unusually mild, 50s just a few days away, but you'd have to be one very naive optimist to think that's the last of the snow. It's too early to get specific, but the GFS model is hinting at a period of wet snow next weekend, possibly rain changing to wet snow by late Saturday and Sunday. Accumulation? Stay tuned.
A Chilly February, a Colder Than Average Winter for Most of America. The southern USA experienced a much colder than normal December through February, according to NOAA, but temperatures in the Red River Valley and the northern half of Wisconsin trended milder than average. For all the pertinent details (and be a source of invaluable weather factoids at your next party) click here.

Remembering a Friend. Many of you watched Darcy Pohland report the news on WCCO-TV. She passed away in her sleep a little over a week ago, and her fans, friends and family have been devastated. I was very lucky to have worked with this remarkable woman. Media types have an undeserved reputation for being cold, calculated and cynical, only interested in getting the facts, the who/what/where/when/why. But Darcy was different - she genuinely cared about the people she was covering. Working with her in the newsroom for 11 years I never heard her raise her voice, never heard her say a bad thing about a co-worker. She was always - somehow - upbeat, positive, encouraging and almost supernaturally calm. Darcy loved the Gophers, ADORED football, dancing and theater. She was a role model in the community, and not just among those with disabilities. Here was a woman who had every reason to be irritable, to walk around with a chip on her shoulder, to carry a grudge. But I never, ever saw her down, depressed or distressed. At Friday's (amazing) memorial service at the Guthrie Theater someone said, "Darcy didn't do self-pity. She celebrated the possibilities."

My last memory of Darcy was last summer, on Lake Minnetonka. Jeanette Trompeter pulled up with Darcy in the back of her ski boat. Darcy was sprawled out on a big cushion on the back of the boat, beaming from ear to ear, positively radiant, soaking it all up, laughing her infectious laugh. We shared a few laughs and a beer (or three). She was with friends, chatting, giggling like a schoolgirl, a permanent smile on her face. That's how I want to remember Darcy Pohland. That's how she would want all of us to remember her. And there's little doubt that those of who knew and loved Darcy will always remember her. Minnesota is a better place because of her - we were lucky to be able to spend some time with this Gopher-loving, pompom-waving, One- Woman-Phenomenon.

Paul's Conservation MN Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota

Today: Foggy & damp with drizzle. Winds: NE 10-15. High: 47

Tonight: More dense fog, patchy drizzle. Low: 39

Sunday: Gray and soggy with light rain and drizzle. High: 49

Monday: Mostly cloudy with a few light showers. High: 48

Tuesday: More clouds than sun, slight chance of a shower or sprinkle. High: near 50

Wednesday: Partly sunny, definite hints of spring. High: 52

Thursday: Intervals of sun, spring fever alert. High: 53

Friday: Cloudy with light rain developing. High: 46

Saturday/Sunday (March 20-21): Rain changing to wet snow, potential for a few inches of wet, slushy snow by Sunday.

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