Friday, March 19, 2010

A shot at 60 (again) early next week?

Flooding Updates from official spotters/reporters

* Benton County (near St. Stephen). Reports of 20 structures, mostly cabins, inundated near Little Rock Lake, most likely from ice jams forming on the Mississippi River.

* Flooding from the Minnesota River reportedly covering the Valley Fair parking lot near Shakopee.

* Report from KEYC-TV: officials keeping an eye on the Highway 99 bridge over the MN River in St. Peter, may install a dike along Highway 169 between St. Peter and Mankato.

* Minor damage on the Highway 10 bridge near Little Falls caused by ice jams.

* Near Jordan: Jonathan Carver Parkway near Co. Rd 9 closed due to lowland flooding.

Turn Around - Don't Drown. The NWS saying has renewed meaning and relevance in light of some near-disasters in recent days. Riding up high in an SUV or pickup truck can give you a false sense of security - a feeling that you can safely ford almost any flooded street. More than half of all flood victims die in this manner - they firmly BELIEVE they can safely make it to the other side, only to be swept downstream to their deaths. All it takes is 2 feet of rapidly flowing water to turn your fancy SUV into a boat, with potentially tragic consequences. Click here for more flood safety tips from the National Weather Service. Are you insured for flooding? Check your policy carefully. Most homeowners insurance policies do not cover a comprehensive loss - you usually have to purchase a separate insurance policy to cover river flooding. Click here to check out the risk of flooding for your neighborhood from

The United Flooded States of America. There are over 4500 river gauges around the nation. As of Friday evening 201 locations were reporting flooding. Click here to go a comprehensive NWS web site that allows you to drill down to specific states and individual river forecasts. Pretty cool.

So THIS is what March is really like in Minnesota. Compared to the last few days with highs surging into the 60s, balmy, May-like conditions capable of turning some of us into babbling, giggling schoolgirls, today felt like a cold slap across the face (a sensation I can only imagine, I might add). Today was only a couple degrees below "average", but a stinging northwest wind brought back a definite whiff of wind chill - it felt like 20s much of the day. The chilly front has an upside: it has slowed the rate of melting, and that's coming at a very good time for Minnesota's rivers, acting as a "brake" to slow the amount of melted snow entering our watersheds. It won't prevent widespread flooding, but it may take some of the edge off the most extreme crests predicted for the coming days. The South Fork of the Crow River continues to act up, it's well out of it's banks, with major flooding for Mayer and Delano - within 48 hours major flooding is predicted for Rockford and Montevideo (see the latest prediction from NWS river forecasters below).

48 Hour Flood Potential. The most significant flooding is expected in the purple-shaded towns, from Rockford and Delano to Mayer & Montevideo. Click here to jump over to the latest NWS forecast. Click on the individual towns to see a crest forecast for that specific river.

A Rerun of 60 Early Next Week? The models are in pretty good agreement that temperatures should trend upward early next week, Monday and Tuesday appear to be the mildest days, with highs ranging from 55 to 60. There is a strong bias in the models towards "average" weather. The normal high now is about 42 degrees, and that may be pulling down the numbers a bit. Yes, 60 is a very real possibility early next week. Prepare to be seriously distracted...

Today will be a little easier to take than Friday, peeks of sun, less wind, highs close to 40. Sunday looks even better with bright sun and relatively light winds, a very good chance at hitting 50 by late afternoon (daytime highs now come around 4-5 pm with daylight saving time, an hour later than they did last week). 50? No big deal, right? Models are hinting at southwest breezes Monday and Tuesday, enough sun both days for highs in the mid 50s to near 60. Expect a revival of spring fever early next week - distractingly nice weather is likely. The next cool front may spark a shower or sprinkle late Tuesday (odds are it will sail through town dry). A wind shift to the north/northwest should pull cooler air back into town the latter half of next week, highs in the 40s (north) and low 50s (south). Hardly a "cold front". The GFS is hinting at an inch or two of slush the last Sunday of March (28th) but that's way off on the distant horizon - that forecast will almost certainly change in the coming days as new data arrives. There's a good chance we'll go through the entire month of March with little or no snow. Unusual? Yes. March is the second snowiest month of the year, on average. We SHOULD pick up just over 10" of snow. Where's the snow these days? Read on...

Ski Oklahoma. 10+" of snow north and east of Oklahoma City? That's what the models are predicting, the same storm that clobbered Denver with heavy wet snow since Thursday night will paste Oklahoma, northwestern Arkansas and much of Missouri with enough snow to shovel, plow and paralyze travel. Yes, Oklahoma appears to be getting our Tournament Snowstorm. Go figure.

Whispers of El Nino? The storm track has been (stuck) consistently south of Minnesota, guiding wet Pacific storms across the central/southern Rockies into the deep south, and right up the east coast, consistent with symptoms of an El Nino warming. Cities from Buffalo to Chicago to the Twin Cities are experiencing unusually dry, mild conditions - that's been the story since mid February. El Nino is forecast to weaken in the coming weeks/months, hinting at a return to "normal" weather, and hopefully more frequent rains in time for spring planting season.

Late Month Snowfall Potential? Too early to panic (or celebrate) but the law of averages would almost certainly seem to indicate that we'll see at least 1 or 2 more (brief) snowfalls before the first crocus of spring break through the permafrost. The GFS prints out 1-2" worth of precipitation around March 28-29, but it's nowhere close to being a sure thing. Let's see if future models concur before we get too excited. For now it's nothing more than a distinct possibility. You can probably retire the snow blower (if you're lucky enough to have one of those). Keep the snow shovel handy, because the minute you put that into cold storage the heavens will open up.

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

Today: Partly sunny, a cool breeze. Winds: NW 10-15. High: 39

Saturday night: Mostly clear, chilly. Low: 28

Sunday: Nicer day of the weekend, more sun, less wind. Winds: W 10-15. High: near 50

Monday: Spring fever returns. Plenty of sun. High: near 60

Tuesday: Fading sun, more like late April. Slight chance of a shower late. High: 58

Wednesday: Mix of clouds and sun, turning cooler. High: 53

Thursday: Lot's of sun, still well above average. High: 57

Friday: Noticeably cooler, more clouds, chance of (rain) showers. High: 45

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