Monday, March 22, 2010

From floods to drought?

As we come to the end of March, it's been potentially another record breaking month. Amazingly, the Twin Cities has not seen any snow this month. If this trend continues for MSP, it will be the first time in recorded history that no snow has fallen in March. Certainly this has helped with flooding, but now do farmers, and homeowners that appreciate green lawns, need to be concerned with the lack of water in the ground?

It's dry! The northern metro is already experiencing moderate drought conditions. As the spring green-up occurs and dead undergrowth becomes exposed to dry conditions, it could set the stage for wild brush fires. It is possible that somewhere in Minnesota a Red Flag Warning could be issued during a period in April. This warning is issued when there is a sustained wind average of 15 MPH or greater, a relative humidity less than or equal to 25 percent, and a temperature of greater than 75°F. Last spring, a brush fire started by a resident quickly got out of control in Shakopee that burned 100 acres in a four hour period on tax day, April 15th, 2009. The relative humidity was in the 10-15 percent range during the time of the fire. That's a value that exceeds deserts! Be careful with any burning this year. Better advice: Don't do it!

If you like thunderstorms, you may not like this news. With the lack of precip of any kind this month, this hasn't helped with moisture content at the surface to fuel thunderstorms. Moisture is one key component, along with instability, and differential heating to create a lift for the air. Checking the GFS long-range models, no major storm systems are in sight. The Climate Prediction Center is indicating in it's 30-day outlook that most of Minnesota has equal chances of above, below, or normal temperatures and precipitation. Southern Minnesota could be a little bit on the cooler side around Marshall and Worthington. These factors have given me a gut feeling that April will for the most part be dry. Perhaps May will be different. Each month is like it's own chapter in a climatology book.

This week's outlook. The newest late-night GFS forecast runs are hot off the presses, and it appears that the work week will be dry with a healthy dose of sunshine with above average temps in the high 40s and low 50s. On Saturday, a low-pressure system may trigger some snow flurries, or a slushy mix. It will be a close call as the rain/snow line hovers near.

Enjoy the week!


Saturday, March 20, 2010

Flood video of Minnesota River near Jordan, MN

Moving water from the Minnesota River over Carver County Road 11, 2 miles NNW of Jordan, MN.

Friday, March 19, 2010

2010 Flood pictures

Pictures taken Friday, March 19th of flooding conditions along the Minnesota River in Shakopee and Jordan.

West of County Road 101 and south of the Minnesota River in Shakopee. The river is well out of it's banks. Highway crews were shutting down the 101 river crossing as I was taking these pictures.

Pictures taken 2 miles NNW of Jordan near the Minnesota Valley State Recreation Area (map of general area below):

Road closures

Just a quick update on the flooding situation around the metro, specifically south of the Minnesota River.

County Road 9 near Highway 169 to 185th Street W. in Jordan is closed due to water covered roadways.

Flood projection in Jordan with a crest of 31.1 feet Monday afternoon.

The County Road 101 and Highway 41 river crossings between Shakopee and Chaska will be closing Friday night at 6 PM. Expect to see heavier traffic on the Bloomington Ferry Bridge while these roads are closed. Motorists are urged to use Highways 169 and 212, as well as Interstate 494.

Flood projection in Shakopee with a crest of 717.3 feet early Tuesday morning.

The storm system that I mentioned to impact the area over the weekend has shifted south during the week and will being snows to Iowa and Missouri. We will remain dry, which will help the flooding effort.

I will attempt to add some photos of the flooding over the weekend as the rivers begin to crest.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

TGIS! (Thank God It's Spring)

What an absolute treat we had for weather on Sunday. No forecast model even came close to predicting a 60 degree day, let alone 50 degrees. However, I don't think many people will be complaining about this miscalculation. The Twin Cities official high temp of 64° as well as Eau Claire, Wisconsin's high of 66° were record-breaking. It was a morale-boosting day as many people took advantage of getting outside and soaking it all in. A walk, followed by cleaning out the gunk on the garage floor that had accumulated all winter was on my agenda. The foot of snow we had at the beginning of March is all but gone. All that's left are a few small snow piles on areas that don't see much sunlight or are tucked away in low-lying areas. The Twin Cities metro area saw roughly an inch of snow melt per day from March 1 to March 12.

This unexpected warmth has triggered an accelerated snow melt and revised flood forecasts from the National Weather Service. Many river towns/cites around the Twin Cities are going to see minor to moderate flooding. Ice jamming is going to be a common occurrence this spring. As of Sunday night, an ice jam was reported along the Minnesota River near Henderson that triggered a flash flood warning for the overnight hours.

Red River Update. For Fargo, North Dakota residents, the Red River is expected to reach a level on Friday night of 38 feet, which would make it the forth largest crest on record if the numbers hold. The river will continue to fluctuate around this level during the upcoming weeks, so I am concerned that the river could rise to 40 feet when it's all said and done.

This week's outlook. Dry weather and at or above average temps will continue into this week with rain chances coming Tuesday (20%) as a disturbance moves through and Thursday night (30%) when a cold front moves through the state. As the GFS model above indicates, we may be starting our weekend on a soggy note as Saturday could bring us a good chance of a rain/snow mix. We are very close to the rain/snow line, represented by the pink line. As we get closer to Saturday, the forecast models will become more defined. Any precip will not help out with flooding. .75 or 1 inch of rain could prove to be disasterous for residents along rivers. Let's hope we don't see much rain for a while!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The 2010 storm season has begun!

On Monday, March 8th, 2010, an EF-2 tornado struck Hammon, Oklahoma. This was the first big tornado event to start the 2010 severe weather season. It had been a quiet year so far across the United States with only one tornado reported in the month of February. A marginal severe weather situation was expected with only small probabilties for tornadoes due to lower dewpoint values and cooler surface temperatures. These were low-topped supercells that formed in western Oklahoma behind a line of thunderstorms. This setup was similar to the Minneapolis tornado that stuck on August 19th of last year. A small packet of instability developed in the area during the afternoon that was just enough energy to trigger the tornadic supercells. Like the Minneapolis tornado, this tornado did not posess the radar vortex signatures to prompt the issuance of a tornado warning from the local National Weather Service office until the tornado had been on the ground for several minutes.

What's even more amazing is the storm video that was captured by chasers. Andy Gabrielson of Severe Studios recorded this incredible footage of the tornado that struck Hammon below:

My initial reaction was that Andy was far too close to this tornado. As awe-inspring as this was and wind speed data that could be used in research, he could have easily been clipped by flying debris through a window or trapped in downed, live power lines. Each person is entitled to make their own decision, but good judgment needs to prevail every situation. One death is too many in this hobby. As a fratenity, it casts a black eye on everyone that goes out to find the storms. Some chasers are in it to make money, but I don't understand how making a couple extra bucks on a video from being so close to the tornado makes up for a lifetime of possibilities. The last thing we need is for the media to pick this story up on the recklessness of storm chasing and run with it. Andy was fortunate to be safe, but this could have been a very tragic outcome. Just wish for everyone to have safe chasing/spotting season in 2010!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Red River flooding and weekend update

Well, what a beautiful week it was! A nice, sunny stretch of temperatures around 40 degrees. Just warm enough to crack open a car window to get some fresh air, or take advantage of a peaceful walk. As you have seen from looking outside, we have lost much of our snow pack. Snow lovers fret as they are now on borrowed time to get the most out of their winter activities. Dare we see some patches of dormant grass already? If not for the snow, we may have seen temperatures 10 or 15 degrees warmer this week and borderline shorts weather! Much of the sun energy this time of the year is used to melt the lowest layers of the snow.

It has been very dry month of February across Minnesota with most places seeing less than an inch of precipitation. This has aided in the decrease of widespread flooding concerns across the state.

Change in the air? It looks like our streak of dry days are about to come to an end. The GFS forecast model above is showing some rain moving into the area for Saturday. The pink line, called the "540 line" in the meteorological world, is the rain/snow line. We will stay in the warm sector, so the precip will fall as rain. Some of the roads may become slick as temps will fall below freezing as the sun sets Saturday. Take it easy out there if you must drive. Sunday looks like the better day of the two as the rain moves out of the area and sunshine returns.

The updated spring flooding outlook came out for south central Minnesota and eastern North Dakota from the North Central River Forecast Center. With the lack of precipitation over the last month, the probabilities of major flooding along the Minnesota and Mississippi rivers are low. The exception here is the Mississippi River at Hastings - there's about a 70% chance of the river reaching a flood stage of 18 feet.

That's the good news, now the bad news. Our friends that live along the Red River are still likely to experience severe flooding due significant rainfalls last fall and a greater, and heavier snow pack this winter. The city of Fargo will likely receive the brunt of the flooding as flooding will be imminent within 90 days. There's a greater than 98% chance the the river will crest to major levels at 30 feet. Last week, Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker declared a state of emergency for the city. Citizens should already begin preparations for sandbagging and moving valuables to higher ground. If there is any positive news, the river in Fargo does not appear to reach the 2009 level of 40.84 feet. Only a 30% chance of this happening.

Next week's outlook: The weather pattern becomes more active as we will see rain chances increase Tuesday and into the middle of the week. Temperatures in the mid-40s throughout the week.