Wednesday, December 29, 2010

One, two punch

This holiday weekend is shaping up to see two rounds of weather as two low pressure centers track over Minnesota during the day on Thursday and then again on Friday. The two storm tracks are plotted below.

lowtrack_circlesThe first round will be a rain event as temperatures will be well above freezing (temperature projected to be above the freezing mark, the green line, in the chart below) during the day on Thursday before dipping below the 32 degree mark late Thursday night into Friday. This will force the change over from rain to snow.


Rain totals for Thursday range from two tenths to four tenths. This will create slick roads during the overnight hours into Friday.


As far as snow goes on Friday, we could see a few inches of snow out of the second system as it moves in, but nothing major. It will be the rain freezing over that will create the greatest problems.


Welcome to the world of everything!


Sunday, December 26, 2010

Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles for Sunday Night Football

A major winter storm is impacting the northeast U.S., which may drop over a foot of snow and blizzard conditions in some places. The Minnesota Vikings are scheduled to play the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday Night Football. The NFL is considering postponing the game due to the conditions.  Considering what the Minnesota Vikings have been through during the 2010 season, this would only be a fitting exclamation point.  Hey, if they can get a game up and going at TCF Bank Stadium, why can’t they get the field ready at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Eagles?  A heat pipe system is used at that stadium to keep the grass from going dormant, but are not used to melt snow.  It’s football and snow, what else could you ask for?  Play the game!

Winter storm warnings for the areas shaded in pink, and blizzard warnings for areas in orange, which includes NYC and all of Long Island.


10-14 inches of snow possible for Philadelphia according to the latest NAM and GFS Cobb output through Monday night:


Just the latest chapter that is the 2010 Vikings season!


Friday, December 24, 2010

New Year’s Eve winter mess?

Looking ahead towards New Year’s Eve, there is a chance that this next weather system could cause a real travel headache for New Year’s Eve plans that you may have.  The GFS forecast model is indicating well over an inch of water, which would equate out to over a foot of snow, however, it appears that enough warm air will mix in to create a mix of rain/snow/ice.  You may also notice the tight isobars, which indicate strong winds with the low pressure center that will move along the Minnesota/Iowa border by next Friday night.  This one is looking pretty ugly and I advise you watch for updates if you have to travel.  You may be better off staying home and not risking it if this storm is as advertised, but it’s still a ways out.



Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Eve snowstorm?

My blog has been busy with December entries with storm after storm that has moved through the area, dropping significant amounts of snow. New data tonight suggests that the snowfall on Christmas could be a bit on the heavy side. As much as 5 inches of snow could take aim at the southwest portion of the Twin Cities metro with the northeast side of town seeing lighter amounts. This will be one of those storms where the significant snow cutoff lies right over the heart of the Cities. Fortunately, with the latest thaw taking hold over the area, some of the recent snows have begun to melt. This next system could offset any melting that has taken place and could put a wrinkle into Christmas travel. Stay tuned for more updates.

Forecast models based on the MSP airport location showing the lighter amounts of snow. Perhaps an inch or two towards the eastern half of the metro:


The latest NAM output showing the heavier snow bands over the southwest metro:



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Getting closer to a December record

The official reading at MSP airport from Monday’s snowfall was 4.6”, which brings the monthly total to 28.8”. Track the total here. We are now 4.4” shy of tying the December record that was set in 1969.

The snow headed our way for Thursday and Christmas Eve doesn’t look all that impressive right now. Looks to be about a half inch of snow for most locations. With all the snow we’ve had, we need the break. There is simply no place to put any more snow. It’s already become dangerous trying to navigate residential streets that have snow banks obstructing the view at intersections. Sometimes it feels like Russian Roulette. It’s just one more thing to worry about in life along with work deadlines, holiday shopping, distractions, etc.

Just one other note. I’m quoted in the Shakopee Valley News about the Great Blizzard of 2010 that brought 21.5 inches of snow to Shakopee. That snow total was taken by yours truly. Apparently the city’s snow total was recognized by national media outlets, such as CNN. Here is an online version of the newspaper edition where I’m noted for you to check out:


I’m honored to be part of a historic event. Never did I think when I took the reading that it would be such a big deal. I’m a little surprised at the total I arrived at, but I have no doubts that the 21.5 inches was a very good approximation to what we got. Measuring snow is truly one of the greatest challenges as a weather observer. There’s blowing and drifting and you really have to use good judgment and react to the situation appropriately. In this case, I took far more measurements before doing an average to ensure I was dealing with a greater level of accuracy. I know there are some naysayers out there, but I did the job to the best of my abilities in a very difficult situation. I would do it all over again if I had too. It’s the curiosity of how much snow is there that interests me.

That’s it for now.


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Sunday night storm update

With the late night forecast model runs, it appears the totals aren’t quite nearly as high as this morning’s runs.

How much? Right now it appears that the Twin Cities metro will see anywhere between 5-8 inches of snow I believe.


Where? The heaviest amounts will be seen on the southwest side of town, much like the last snowfall that impacted portions of the metro area. The areas shaded in dark green below may see up to 8 inches of snow. The snows are expected to begin after the noon hour and linger into the day on Tuesday. Expect a very slow afternoon/evening commute on the roadways.


Just another December snowstorm…

The Twin Cities just made it through one historic snowfall and now may be impacted by another snowstorm Monday night into Tuesday. This storm, based on the forecast models, will not be as large as the one on December 10th and 11th, but it will be enough to plow and slow down the workday commute.

Winter storm watches have been issued:

  • Winter Storm Watch valid at Dec 20, 6:00 AM CST for Carver, Chippewa, Dakota, Douglas, Goodhue, Hennepin, Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker, Pope, Rice, Scott, Stearns, Stevens, Swift, Todd, Wright [MN] till Dec 21, 6:00 AM CST
  • Winter Storm Watch valid at Dec 20, 12:00 PM CST for Anoka, Benton, Chisago, Isanti, Kanabec, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Ramsey, Sherburne, Washington [MN] and Barron, Chippewa, Dunn, Eau Claire, Pepin, Pierce, Polk, Rusk, St. Croix [WI] till Dec 21, 6:00 AM CST

How much snow are we talking? The forecast models are throwing out a range of 5 to 10 inches for the Twin Cities. My hunch right now is that many locales will generally see 6-8 inches of snow. The NAM model tends to be more accurate that the GFS when it comes to winter events. These numbers will change however as we get closer to Monday night and the models get a better grasp of this storm as it has yet to develop. The models update four times a day, so it is possible that we could be looking at significantly different totals tonight, but I'm not betting on it. There has been consistency of placing large amounts of snow over the metro the past couple days, so this storm wouldn’t be something to sneeze at.


How does December 2010 stack up to prior years? Digging through the numbers from the Minnesota Climatology Working Group, the record for December snowfall is 33.2 inches, which occurred in 1969. 2010 is already the snowiest start since 1991. It is quite possible that December 2010 could go down in the books as the snowiest December. Currently, 24.2 inches of snow has fallen so far this month.

Greatest monthly snowfall for December

1. 1969............33.2 "
2. 2000............30.2 "
3. 1968............28.7 "
4. 1950............25.0 "
5. 1902............24.0 "
6. 1996............23.7 "
7. 1927............22.8 "
8. 1983............21.0 "
9. 1982............19.3 "
10. 1909............19.2 "

Stay tuned for further updates.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Great Blizzard of 2010

The Twin Cities experienced the biggest snowstorm since the infamous Halloween Blizzard of 1991. In my opinion, the '91 storm was more impressive because it was over a three day span and dumped nearly 30 inches of snow on the Twin Cities. As an amateur weather forecaster, I underestimated this latest storm just because it appeared on the "radar" only a couple days before it actually happened, which made it difficult to completely buy into the 15-23 inch snow totals from the forecast models.

Here are snowfall totals from the area from this storm:

Here’s how this storm ranks in history with other famous snowfalls from the State Climatology Office:

1. 28.4 inches: 1991 October 31 - November 3 (Halloween Blizzard)

2. 21.1 inches: 1985 November 29 - December 1

3. 20.0 inches: 1982 January 22 – 23

4. 17.4 inches: 1982 January 20 – 21

5. 17.1 inches: 2010 December 10 – 11

6. 16.8 inches: 1940 November 11 - 12 (Armistice Day)

t7. 16.7 inches: 1985 March 3 – 4

t7. 16.7 inches: 1940 March 11 - 14 (tie)

9. 16.5 inches: 1982 December 27 – 28

10. 16.0 inches: 1917 January 20 – 21

It’s going to take a while to completely recover from this storm. Curbs look like snow mountains and many side streets and sidewalks have yet to be plowed. With the arctic chill on it’s way, this snow won’t be melting anytime soon. Living here is definitely “character building”. We put up with a lot here and still manage to find a way to get through it somehow. More snow is possible midweek, but this doesn’t appear to be a major system at this time. Be sure to keep watching this blog for further updates.


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A whole lot of everything

An active weather day setting up for Thanksgiving eve across Minnesota.  The state will see everything from freezing rain, sleet, to snow.  This is because the snow/rain line will be meandering across the southern half of Minnesota throughout the day on Wednesday, which has made it a challenge to forecast what exactly what will happen and where.  Looking at the SREF P-Type runs, it appears the greatest precip potential will be ice pellets (sleet) for the southern part of the Twin Cities metro to Worthington, MN, and La Crosse, WI. Snow will be the dominate player for the rest of the state with freezing rain near the Minnesota and Iowa border.


Winter Weather Advisory is in effect for the purple shaded counties below until midnight.


Snow totals.  For locations that see all snow, I'm forecasting about 3-4 inches of snow (north metro over to Eau Claire, WI) with 8 inches possible up by the north shore.  Areas that see sleet, will have that total reduced substantially, with perhaps in inch or two of snow after the changeover.

Drive safe and give yourself extra time if you need to travel today.

Happy Thanksgiving!


Saturday, November 13, 2010

First snow of 2010

The upper midwest is receiving it’s first major November winter storm in quite some time. It recent years, the snowstorms have held off for another month. This storm developed very quickly and only showed up on the models as early as Wednesday with Thursday being the full blown warning that significant snow was on it’s way. As of 8 AM on Saturday morning, Shakopee has picked up 5 inches, with areas in the south and west metro seeing 4 to 6 inches of snow already. Isolated areas around MSP may pick up 10 inches when it’s all said and done by Sunday morning. If you are traveling today, be careful. Use your headlights and drive cautiously. Snowplows haven’t been out to clean the roads based what I’m seeing on the MNDOT road cameras.


Enjoy the snow!


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Farmington Tornado

Many of you were probably awaken by wave after wave of strong to severe storms that moved through the Cities during the early morning hours of Friday, August 13th. The National Weather Service in Chanhassen determined that an EF-1 tornado touched down about three miles northwest of downtown Farmington at 3:04 AM CDT. The tornado moved in a northeast direction for 1.5 miles.

Farmington tornado

A fellow weather enthusiast, Tadd Parris, informed me that the tornado was very well defined on the radar velocity scan, which is used to see winds blowing towards and away from the radar site. On a simplistic scale, when the winds come together from both directions, it often forms a “couplet”, which is a very good indicator of strong rotation within a cell. Here we can see a couplet just northwest of downtown Farmington that is circled in yellow from a radar image at 3:07 AM. Based on my research, there was no warning of any kind while the tornado was in progress, so residents would have not received an alert on the weather radios or heard sirens sounding.

While significant damage to residential homes was reported, there were no injuries or deaths thankfully. In populated areas, that can be difficult to avoid.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Isolated storms and end of the heat

Yesterday’s cold front that moved through Minnesota brought with it the end of the oppressive heat and humidity that the Twin Cities metro area and points southward have experienced the last couple of weeks where we saw record high temperatures tied at MSP. It will also be the end of the streak of rain and damaging winds that the Lakeville/Farmington area experienced.


A secondary system, a trough of low pressure, will move across the state today, bringing with it the end of the humid spell for a while.  There will be isolated storms some could be severe, but the setup is very marginal today and widespread activity is not expected later today.  Anything that does pop will occur towards the evening hours.  Hail and winds will be the greatest threats from any of the stronger storms.


The Storm Prediction Center, which keeps record of storm reports for the U.S. has a preliminary tally of 116 tornado touchdowns in Minnesota this year.  This is amazing!  Who would have thunk that a location in the northern continental part of the country would have more tornadoes than Texas, which has a count of 87.  The number may be dwindled down a bit as research from storm surveys are done by the six National Weather Service offices (Twin Cities, Duluth, La Crosse, WI, Sioux Falls, SD, Aberdeen, SD, and Grand Forks, ND) that serve the state.  Looking at the map, there seems to be a couple local concentrated “tornado alley” pockets.  The first one is around the Alexandria area and a second near Albert Lea.  It’s been an odd year to say the least considering Minnesota had not seen a single tornado for the year as of mid-June!  The severe weather season will be winding up here shortly and then it will be the arrival of the “s” word, which for some people cheer while others dread. Ah, winter.

Enjoy your weekend.


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Heavy rains

Tuesday’s storms brought heavy rains across the Twin Cities metro area and isolated severe storms.  As of 11:15 PM, downtown Minneapolis has seen 2.5 to 3 inches of rain and pockets of 1.5 to 2.5 inches of rain across far western Hennepin County, northern Scott County around Shakopee, just east of St. Paul, and far southern Dakota County.  The National Weather Service in the Twin Cities has issued a flash flood warning for the central portion of the metro area until 2AM.


Fortunately, it appears the rain and potential flooding on the roadways will be gone by the morning rush as the storm sewers will have a chance to catch up with all the rain water. Stay safe.  If you see flooded roadways, don’t attempt to cross, turn around!


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Severe weather threat continues

SPC Outlook 8-8-10

Repeat performance?  Another day of active weather is possible for Minnesota as there is a slight risk of severe storms south of a Alexandria, Milaca, to Stillwater, MN line.  Not expecting tornadoes today, as was the case yesterday southwest of Fergus Falls, and any severe weather that does occur will be isolated.  Damaging winds will be the primary threat.


Yesterday’s storm reports. Here is a graphical depiction of the storm reports received from Saturday’s storms.  As supercells developed on the Minnesota/Wisconsin border, they had enough spin in the atmosphere to produce tornadoes before moving east-southeast along a frontal boundary draped across Interstate 94 towards St. Cloud and the Twin Cities and dropping fair amounts of rain across the area.

Awesome video. Here’s video of a tornado shot by Andy Gabrielson of SevereStudios near the towns of Doran and Campbell in Wilkin County, located in northwest Minnesota.  This guy always seems to be at the right place at the right time, and has captured some amazing footage this year.  My hats off to him.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Tornado watch


The Storm Prediction Center has issued a tornado watch for much of Minnesota effective until 1 AM local time. The watch includes the following counties: Anoka, Benton, Carver, Chippewa, Chisago, Dakota, Douglas, Hennepin, Isanti, Kanabec, Kandiyohi, McLeod, Meeker, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Pope, Ramsey, Renville, Scott, Sherburne, Sibley, Stearns, Stevens, Swift, Todd, Washington, and Wright. Stay tuned.


Severe threat for August 7th, 2010

SPC Outlook

There is a slight risk of severe weather across much of southern Minnesota today, primarily during the afternoon and evening hours.  The trigger for rough thunderstorms is a warm front draped across the central part of the state.  The main weather threat from any storms today will be the potential for damaging winds as highlighted by The Storm Prediction Center for areas inside the red line.  There is also concern about isolated tornadoes with initial storms that development across west central Minnesota from about St. Cloud to Alexandria and points northwest (orange area on the map) before the storm system evolves into a complex during the evening hours in a southeast direction towards the Twin Cities.  For those that have outdoor plans later on today, you will definitely want to keep an eye to the sky.


Sunday, August 1, 2010

7/27/10 Chase: Glencoe, MN

A cold front raced across Minnesota during the evening of Tuesday, July 27th, 2010.  I chased out west along highways US-212 and MN-5 towards Glencoe, MN. The storms were severe in western Minnesota, but lost their intensity as they approached the Twin Cities, only to regain their strength as the line moved into Wisconsin.


The leading edge of this line of storms produced nice shelf clouds, indicating strong straight-line winds.  Here is a photo I took of a shelf cloud approaching from the north near the towns of Glencoe and Plato:


Following the back end of the line of storms on the way home, I experienced some wind and rain.  The real prize of this trip was the lightning strike I captured as I was traveling eastbound on US-212/MN-5 outside of Glencoe:

Nice little storm for an evening chase!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

7/17/10 Chase: MN

On Saturday, July 17, 2010, severe storms ripped through the central part of Minnesota with hail, strong winds, and a few reports of tornadoes. Severe weather was anticipated this day as the Storm Prediction Center (SPC) had placed much of the southern half of Minnesota under a moderate risk of severe storms as early as Friday.

day1otlk_20100717_1200_prt The early Saturday AM outlook from the SPC with the moderate (MDT) risk of severe storms outlined in red.

My initial chase target late Friday night/early Saturday morning was Benson, MN based on what the 4.0km WRF model was telling me. Storms started firing around the Alexandria and St. Cloud areas along I-94, north of a warm front, after the noon hour. It was a little surprising to see storms firing so early in the day and the proximity to the Twin Cities. That caught me off-guard a little bit with the differences in what the model data was telling me. This activity was east of what I felt were the greatest dynamics for tornadoes, so I asked myself how this could be happening. Going into Saturday morning, I expected to see storm development just east of the MN/ND/SD border sometime after 2 PM local time with movement to the east-southeast. Scraping my plans to head west, I began my trek up towards I-94 towards St. Cloud. Not long into my journey, a tornado watch was issued at around 12:30 PM until 8 PM, which included most of central MN. The watch got as close to the Cities as Wright Co., but a few of the immediate Twin Cities metro counties were added later as the watch boundaries were extended.


As I travelled towards the Albertville area on I-94, I started loosing confidence in this cell north and west of St. Cloud as it began to get so massive. Still north of I-94, this cell appeared to evolving into a heavy rain and hail producer with a funnel cloud report mixed in near Gull Lake around 12:45 PM. I’m not one who likes to sit underneath or punch into cores containing large hail. It damages your vehicle unnecessarily and jeopardizes my safety with the possibility of windows breaking and being injured by broken glass. Just don’t understand it, but that’s my prerogative, just as it is for those who drive or sit idle through it. How to chase is up to each individual. Digressing from that tangent - since these cells were outside of what I felt was the greatest dynamics for the possibility of a tornado, I decided to leave this cell and head back south and take US-12 out west to intercept some storms heading for Willmar. Based on CAPE values and wind shear, I took a gamble that these storms would intensify rapidly and possibly produce a tornado.

I caught up with some storms in Wright Co that I followed for an hour west to east from Cokato to near Buffalo before they died out. The storms near St. Cloud were still maintaining their intensity, so I decided to head north on Hwy 25 in Buffalo to check it out.

1%20a%20a%20wunder2-thumb-500x325[1] Cells near the I-94 corridor just before 2 PM producing large hail and heavy rains. (Image credit: Paul Huttner)

Around 2:30 PM, the St. Cloud storm was beginning to move south of I-94 and move in a southeasterly direction towards the Twin Cities as it picked up speed along the warm front that was slowly sagging to the south.

1%20a%20a%20tor%20osakis Storm cell at 2:39 PM with a hook near Sauk Centre on I-94. At this point, this cell would carry tornadic characteristics as it marched towards the Cities. (Image credit: Paul Huttner)

Made the decision to stay east of the cell and attempted to stay in front of it taking the State Highway 15 south exit on I-94 around 3:35-3:40 PM. The cell was tornado warned at 3:28 PM and heading in my direction. Greatest area of concern was around Eden Valley and Watkins. Attempting to cross in front of the cell so I could get in position on the backside of the cell before being dumped on with heavy rains in hail, I arrived near Kimball, MN around 3:45 PM.

pauldouglas_1279400372_radar10 Radar velocity scan of an area of rotation approaching the towns of Kimball and Kingston Township at about 3:45 PM. (Image credit: Paul Douglas)

103 104 105 106

Above are pictures taken from 3:44 to 3:46 PM from my phone inside the car near Kimball, MN looking north and west. It was a very mature supercell with strong updrafts and one report of 4.25” inch hail as it came through Sauk Center at 3:37 PM. Not a storm to be stuck standing in front of you.

1%20a%20a%20tor%20ann2Radar image at 4:16 PM when a tornado was reported southeast of Kingston Township (Image credit: Paul Huttner).

About a half hour later, I continued trekking south on Highway 15 through heavy rains, winds, and some pea to dime size hail as the activity moved through Kimball towards Kingston Township. Wanting to get out of the rain and get some photo opportunities I turned off onto a county road west of Kingston to spend some time with the Nikon camera.

001 002 003 004006

These pictures were taken looking east from my position, which was just southwest of Kingston. As I began shooting pictures around 4:15 PM, a tornado was reported 2 miles southeast of town just a minute later. I could not locate the tornado from my position, but there definitely were a lot of low hanging clouds. In this high precipitation supercell, it was tough to get a clean look at much of anything this day. A local passed me by as I was taking pictures, and asked if I was a storm chaser and wanted to know what specifically is a wall cloud. I tried to explain to the best of my abilities without having a visual to show him and also not boring him with technical jargon. It’s nice to run into people that take an appreciation of the weather and want to learn more about it. Although I didn’t recommend it at the time, hopefully this person takes enough interest to sign up for a Skywarn class. The system could definitely use all the trained eyes it can get. Meeker County gets a fair amount of storms each year, so each individual provides a great service to it’s community.

Leaving the Kingston area, I continued following the west side of this cell as it moved through Meeker, Wright, and Carver Counties through the 4 and 5 PM hour. Made another stop for pictures at 4:55 PM in far northeastern McLeod County, a couple miles north of Winsted, MN. Incidentally, an EF-0 tornado touched down in this vicinity back on June 17th.

008 009 011

Photos from north of Winsted, MN looking east towards Watertown, MN (8 miles away). Two minutes after stopping, at 4:57 PM, spotters reported a tornado 3 miles west of Watertown. Again, I could not see this tornado from my vantage point. From what I could tell, the lowering to the right was merely scud as it appeared to be disconnected from the thunderstorm base. Can’t really speculate as to whether this was being reported as a tornado or not. Watching this for a few minutes, I didn’t see anything worthwhile to stick around for, so I hopped back into the car and met up with State Highway 7 south of Winsted.


Some more pictures taken along Highway 7 as the storm bared down on Waconia, Victoria, Chanhassen, and Chaska. The supercell started to really fall apart east of Mound and no longer posed much of a tornado threat by 5:45 PM. This is where I called off the chase.

Finally, I will leave you with some chase video I shot from my dash cam along Hwy 7 as seen streamed live on Severe Studios. Notice how many locals were out watching the storm. Overall, people handled themselves really well. Cars were parked on the side of the road and traffic was kept moving, albeit slow, since everyone was watching the sky, which I can understand. It sure beats hearing stories of chasers passing cars at 100 MPH and passing up inclines with an obstructed view of traffic heading towards them. Enjoy the video!

Miles: Approximately 350
Reports submitted: 0