The Washington Post

Snowstorm buries Minneapolis, Northern Plains

Adam Womersley and his English Springer Spaniel, Stella walk in the snow on Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, in Minneapolis. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/AP)

Snowfall totals around Minneapolis (National Weather Service)

Around the Twin Cities, it was the heaviest snowfall in almost two years. The last big snow occurred there on February 20-21, 2011 (13.8”). Earlier that same winter, 17.1 inches of snow fell December 11 causing the Metrodome roof to fail.

The 10.5 inches that fell marked the third largest single day snowstorm on record for Minneapolis during December.

The heaviest snows fell in a band from eastern South Dakota through west central Wisconsin. The jackpot of 17.3 inches was measured in Sacred Heart, Minnesota.

Snowfall totals from the eastern Dakota into Wisconsin (National Weather Service)

Blizzard conditions were reported in southwest Minnesota Sunday night with wind gusts to 51 mph and near zero visibility. Similar conditions extended west.

“For a while, much of Interstate 90 across South Dakota was shut down by authorities because of white-out conditions,” writes AccuWeather.

In Minneapolis, snowfall totals significantly exceeded forecasts. Why so much snow? Star Tribune meteorologist Paul Douglas explains:

Every storm is different, and this one was especially fickle, for a number of reasons. Usually a thick layer of cold air needs to be in place for a major snowfall. We didn’t have that with this storm, temperatures aloft fairly close to freezing this morning. But the upward motion, the vertical velocities associated with this storm are unusually intense. Not only does this create moderate to heavy snow, but strong upward motion cools the column of air overhead, preventing a changeover to ice or rain, which would keep final amounts down.

Minnesota Public Radio meteorologist Paul Huttner writes four ingredients came together for this to be the “Perfect Storm” for Minnesota snow lovers: 1) The storm tracked far enough south to place the Twin Cities in the “sweet spot” for snow 2) The storm slowed down 3) The storm was more intense than forecast 4) Bitter cold air followed in the storm’s wake.

Julian Fischer and his son, Zavoli, 5, take advantage snow by sledding on a hill at Lyndale Farmstead, Sunday, Dec. 9, 2012, in Minneapolis. (Richard Tsong-Taatarii/AP)

The 9 a.m. temperature Monday in Minneapolis was 11 degrees with light snow falling. Up until this cold blast (through Sunday), the average temperature for the month was over 10 degrees above normal. But cold air is forecast to stick around, which should ensure a White Christmas for areas affected by the storm.

“I don’t see any significant melting between now and a very white Christmas,” writes Paul Douglas. “In fact a few more inches may fall next Saturday. Like turning on a switch. Instant winter!”

Jason is currently the Washington Post’s weather editor. A native Washingtonian, Jason has been a weather enthusiast since age 10.


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