Minnesota’s 2019 weather can be summed up in one word: wet.
Want more words than that? Then try wetter. Or wettest.
Several parts of the state set records for precipitation, including the Twin Cities, which logged (waterlogged?) 43.17 inches of precipitation — counting rain and snow. That was nearly 3 inches above the previous record and more than a foot over the annual average.
Rochester residents would have been happy with that. They had another foot on top of the metro area’s extra foot, ending up with a total of 55.16 inches of moisture.
Longtime Minnesotans would say we brought this on ourselves. We had a mild January, with an average high of nearly 22 degrees (as opposed to the historic average of 14) and about half as much snow as is typical for the month — only 6.8 inches compared with the 30-year average of 12.2. We got cocky and started laughing in the face of winter.
First rule of dealing with Minnesota weather: Never mock Mother Nature unless you’re ready to pay the price.
At the end of January, a vengeance-minded Jack Frost unleashed a one-two punch that put us in our place — namely, holed up inside, counting the days until spring.
In what the Minnesota DNR Climate Working Group put on its list of top five weather events of the year, an Arctic blast roared into the state with the ferocity of a runaway train.
On Jan. 30, the temperature in the Twin Cities plummeted to 28 below zero, which would have seemed balmy to the folks in Cotton Township, about 35 miles north of Duluth. The temperature there hit 56 below.
February wasn’t much kinder. It came with snow, 39 inches of it in the Twin Cities, burying — literally — the 30-year average of 7.7 inches for the month, easily eclipsing the previous record of 26.5 inches.
And that total doesn’t include the worst storm of the year, a winter “bomb cyclone” that went south of the metro area. From Feb. 22 to 24, it dropped more than a foot of snow that was driven by wind gusts reaching 50 miles per hour, creating massive drifts that “basically closed all of southern Minnesota,” Caleb Grunzke, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, said at the time.
The storm closed Interstates 35 and 90, and the governor called out the National Guard to help rescue motorists, more than 600 of whom were plucked from their stranded vehicles. Even freight trains got stuck.
And the snow wasn’t done. A storm dropped nearly 10 inches of snow in the Twin Cities between April 10 and 12. Meanwhile, Duluth got hit with another 10-plus inches in the first week of May.
One thing we can count on with Minnesota weather is extremes. Barely three months after the Twin Cities finished digging out from the April blizzard, we were dealing with a dangerous heat wave. On July 19, the air temperature reached 95 degrees and the dew point hit 80, generating a heat index of 115 — the second highest on record.
Every memorable show has a big finish, and 2019’s weather was no exception. On the last Saturday of the year, metro residents woke up to find their world covered with a sheet of ice produced by freezing rain. Social media was inundated by video clips of people playing hockey on the streets and sidewalks, proving once again that when it comes to going viral, Mother Nature has no equal.
Jeff Strickler • 612-673-7392 @stribstrick