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Lotsa Snow

by Mark Lahtinen
March 12, 2019

Since my last blurb in January we’ve gone from winter woes to winter...whoa. We were running much warmer and looking like a possible sub 20 inch winter. Before the snows started we were a foot and a half below normal and now we’re about a foot and a half above normal. What a roller coaster it has been.

With respect to the cold we hit -28 F on January 30 and it was -29 F in Maple Grove and I’m sure some spots in the Twin Cities hit -30 F. That’s industrial cold here as far as I’m concerned. I know there is the saying that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing -- I disagree with that when it is that cold. My toes go and don’t come back. We’ve had 38 historic instances of -30 F or colder during the period of record (1873 to present). 22 of them were before 1900 and the other 16 have been since with the last one occurring on February 2, 1996.

The frequency of -20 F occurrences is about 4.5 per year (n=122) from 1873 to 1899, 1.6/yr. (n=80) from 1900 to 1949, 2.4/yr. (n=118) from 1950 to 1999 and 0.4/yr. (n=8) from 2000 to this year (so far but probably won’t be any more this winter). I bet there is some influence from land use changes and perhaps a little urban heat island effect.

Now on to the snow machine with 39 inches in February, the most on record for that month and 4th highest snow total for a month on record. February is usually the least snowiest winter month from December through March. We were up to 25 natural snow ski days (2 inches plus on the ground) going into February and we are now at 62 ski days and counting (let’s hope the rain doesn’t do too much damage). We’d have to make it to April 18th this year to get a 100 natural snow ski day season. Normal is about 70 natural snow ski days per year or 10 weeks. 

The deepest snow depth so far this winter was 21 inches on the ground on March 2 and we’ve had ten days with 18 inches or more on the ground so far. To put that in perspective 1979 had 53 days with 18 inches or more on the ground. There were 45 and 44 days, respectively, in 1967 and 1969. There have been 21 years with at least one 18 inch plus snow depth reading with all, except one (1917), since 1951 for the period of record.

There have been 8 years on record with at least one snow depth reading of 2 feet or more on the ground (1917, 1951, 1962, 1965, 1967, 1969, 1979 and 1982). The most was in 1967 with 12 days followed by 1962 with 11.

There have been 6 occurrences of 30 inch plus snow depths on record. Two in 1917 on March 16 and 17. One in 1967 on February 19. Three in 1982 on January 23 through 25 (38”, 35” and 32”). That is only one snow depth reading of 3 feet or more out of some 10781 days on record with more than a trace of snow on the ground – rare indeed.

The 1982 snow event was after back-to-back snowfalls of 17.1 inches on Jan. 20 and 17.2 inches on Jan. 22 with another 5.1 inches from Jan. 23 through Jan. 25. The Twin Cities Championships ski races were at Wirth in 1982. There was so much snow that the snowmobile track setter couldn’t get through (before a Pisten Bully). A handful of us had to ski and break down the drifts for the machine to get through and set the tracks in that still classic only skiing time. That was lotsa snow.

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