Sunday, November 7, 2010

Winter Hazard Awareness Week (and highs topping 60 through Tuesday!)

Winter Hazard Awareness Week. I know it's hard to wrap your head around winter hazards when afternoon temperatures are poking up into the low 60s, more like late September/early October. But in a matter of a few weeks we'll be facing our first winter storm watch or warning. Time to brush up on the lingo. No winter weather drama this week, but it's only a matter of time before the flakes start flying. A few highlights from the National Weather Service:

Winter Weather Preparations
  • Keep ahead of the winter storm by listening for the latest weather statements, watches and warnings.
  • Your vehicle should also be ready. Get it winterized, before the onset of winter weather.
  • Be equipped for the worst. Carry a winter survival kit in your car, especially when traveling in rural or open areas. Try to travel with others.
When Driving
  • Yield to snowplows, and give them plenty of room to operate.
  • If your vehicle becomes stranded, stay with it until help arrives.
  • Do not try to walk for help during a blizzard, you could easily become lost in the whiteout conditions.
Outdoor Activities
  • If you will be outside during storms or extreme cold, dress in layered clothing and avoid overexertion.
  • Do not kill yourself shoveling snow. Shoveling is very hard work and may induce a heart attack.
  • If you will be snowmobiling, avoid alcohol. Most snowmobile deaths are alcohol related. Take a snowmobile course offered by the DNR or check with your snowmobile dealer.
  • There were five fatalities in Minnesota last winter when people fell through thin ice.
Home Safety
  • Heating fires are a major cause of residential fires in Minnesota. Turn off portable heating devices when you are away from home or retire for the evening. Have your fireplace and chimney professionally inspected before winter.
  • Carbon Monoxide is most likely to accumulate inside homes during winter. Check your heating systems and ensure your home has proper ventilation. Install a UL listed Carbon Monoxide detector that sounds an alarm.

Latest 1" of Snow On Record? So yesterday, walking my dog (Max) in shirtsleeves, sitting down by the lake reading a book ('Crash Course" by Paul Ingrassia), I got to wondering exactly how long (in theory) our luck could hold out. Data from the MN State Climate Office shows the latest 1" on record for the Twin Cities took place during the Winter of 2004-2005, January 21, 2005 to be exact. That really was "The Year Without A Winter." Don't get your hopes up too high - in spite of a late start I don't think we'll get off nearly as easy as we did that winter.

Average Snowfall. During Winter Hazard Awareness Week I thought it would be appropriate to remind you how much snow falls on Minnesota, on average that is. Most of the metro area usually picks up 45-50" snow, with less than 35" over far southwestern counties, but over 65" near Lutsen and Grand Marais.

Last Winter's Numbers. Last winter we picked up 40.7" of snow, but amounts dropped off rapidly the farther north you live (only 20-30" snow fell on the far northern suburbs of the Twin Cities and St. Cloud - up into the Lake Mille Lacs and Brainerd Lakes area! Snow lovers living in central MN were not happy. Even the North Shore of Lake Superior saw 10-25" less snow than average - the vast majority of the big snowstorms detouring south/east of Minnesota. Will history repeat itself this winter? Statistically - odds favor we'll see more snow than last winter, but the trend in recent winters is for "less than average", less than our long-term 48" of snow here at MSP. My hunch is that this winter will be no exception.

Average Start Of The Snow Season? Long-term data from NOAA and the MN State Climate Office shows that northern Minnesota usually has (persistent) snow on the ground by late October - the snow season in St. Cloud normally kicks off around November 7, closer to November 10-11 in the Twin Cities, and as late as November 19 near Lake City and Winona. Not this year....

Record Snowstorms For The Twin Cities. Most of us lived through #1). The Halloween Superstorm of 1991, a staggering total of 28.4". By the way, 8 of the biggest 11 snowstorms have hit MSP since 1980! Even though snow totals are trending downward over time, we still get socked every once in a blue moon.

Yes, You Can Prove Anything With Statistics. Thanks to those data-gurus over at the Minnesota State Climate Office, we can use 47 previous winters as a rough guide on what to expect this upcoming winter. For example, the odds of having 1" of snow on the ground today in St. Paul is only 2%. But that number grows to 54% by November 27. The odds of a cool foot of snow on the ground around Thanksgiving? Mercifully only 2%.

USA Storm Reports. Click here to see a week's worth of national storm reports, courtesy of NOAA and Ham Weather. I had no idea there were multiple reports of waterspouts (tornadoes forming over water) just west of Frankfort, Michigan (over Lake Michigan) last Thursday. It's a good, quick summary of the most unusual weather events of the last week from coast to coast.

Surprising Tornado Statistics. When you think of "tornado alley" you usually think of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, the central and southern Plains states. But SPC statistics show the southern Mississippi and Alabama experience more tornado watches/year (over 16) than Dallas, Kansas City, even Oklahoma City. On average the Twin Cities see an average of 5 tornado watches every summer season. This year that number was closer to 10.

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

MONDAY: Hello Late September! Sunny and beautiful. Winds: S 8-13. High: 63

MONDAY NIGHT: Partly cloudy and unusually mild. Low: 43 (close to our average high for November 9)

TUESDAY: Fading sun, breezy, still unseasonably mild. High: 65 (!)

WEDNESDAY: Cloudier and windier, passing shower as a colder front arrives. High: 56

THURSDAY: More clouds than sun, brisk. High: 49

FRIDAY: Brief period of light rain? High: 48

SATURDAY: Gray and damp, most rain stays east. High: 45

SUNDAY: Some sun, feels like November again. High: 42

* Cold enough for a few snow flurries early next week? No accumulation is in sight looking out 10-15 days, but there should be enough cold air aloft for flurries to mix in with instability sprinkles by Monday - Wednesday of next week. The third week of November will DEFINITELY feel like November!

Savoring The Present

"Today is a gift. That is why they call it the present," said Eleanor Roosevelt. At a recent seminar a scientist explained that the average person is only in "the present" for no more than 10 seconds. I tried to top that number, but I was amazing (and a bit horrified) by how quickly to-do lists, tasks & distractions popped up. Try it yourself. Easier said than done. You will want to take your own personal time out: highs reach the 60s today & Tuesday, 15-20 degrees above average. Remarkable.

The most accurate forecasts use computers and meteorologists (to weed through the 30-40 different models that simulate what SHOULD happen looking out 15 days. If you rely only on supercomputers - or human intuition, the likelihood of a "busted forecast" increases. Our taste of late September hangs on through midweek, the first chance of a shower comes Wednesday as cooler air surges into Minnesota.

Models develop a secondary storm along that advancing reality-check; a little rain may brush southern & eastern MN by Friday; just a few hours of puddles. Early next week it should be cold enough for flurries but I still don't see any accumulating snow. For now: unplug, disconnect and enjoy.

Close Call Thursday Night - Friday? A wave of low pressure rippling north along an eastbound cold front may throw a shield of rain into far southern and eastern MN and much of Wisconsin early Friday - the atmosphere probably just warm enough for rain. Another storm is forecast to spin up farther east on Saturday - by the time it's cold enough aloft for all-snow, most of the moisture will probably have shifted east of Minnesota.

No comments:

Post a Comment