High pressure is making for a cold, but peaceful day for us in southeastern Minnesota and northeastern Iowa today as skies are going to be sunny and the winds will be as close to calm as they get this time of the year. However, a year ago it was quite the opposite. The heaviest snow producing storm of the season was bearing down on our area on this date, not only creating concerns about heavy snowfall, but also the threat of blizzard conditions as the winds surrounding the storm were expected to be in the 30 to 40 mile per hour range, a huge headache for those traveling around our local area and a factor that would keep snowplows on the roads for a couple of days with no time to rest. The snow started falling just before sunrise on Tuesday the 8th, slowing traffic down a little during the day, but east winds ahead of the low pressure center were only in the 10 to 15 mile per hour range, so blowing snow wouldn’t become a factor until later in the night. Snowfall became heavier late in the afternoon and evening while the winds began to get gusty. By midnight on Tuesday the 8th, we had 8.3 inches of snow on the ground in Rochester, a record for that date, but the snow wasn’t finished yet. In fact, another 4.5 inches fell between midnight and mid morning on the 9th. Meanwhile, the National Weatehr Service issued a Blizzard Warning for the entire viewing area as visibilities had fallen down to less than a quarter of a mile and snow was drifting badly. Winds turned to the northwest on Wednesday, the 9th and were consistently gusting beyond 30 miles per hour while colder air was pouring into the region behind the storm system which by then had begun to move to our east. Temperatures fell dramatically during the day, starting out in the lower 20s first thing in the morning, and then falling into the single digits in the afternoon as the snow tapered off. The official low for the day was -3 at 11:59pm with wind chills around -25 by the late evening. Traffic was paralyzed all day long in the blizzard that encompassed the entire region while overall snowfall totals ranged from 9 to 16 inches, 12.8 inches of which was measured in Rochester…and let me tell you, it was not easy to measure that snow because of the drifting!
The blizzard of December 8-9, 2009 was the first major snow event of last season in a month that featured an overall snowfall total of 26. inches. That’s more than twice the average snowfall for December. Thankfully, we don’t have anything remotely resembling that storm in our current forecast, but there will be chances for minor snow accumulations tomorrow and then again early Saturday. Otherwise, cold temperatures will continue to make headlines with a major cold snap in store of the end of the weekend and early next week that may bring us our first single digit highs of the season.