Year in Weather Review: 2009

What about the weather of 2009 will be most remembered? There were two main weather events that punctuated the year. One of which was the devastating ice storm along the North Shore of Lake Superior on March 23-24, 2009 and the 2009 Red River Spring Flooding.

2009 started out like 2008 ended, with winter-like conditions for Minnesota. The peak of the winter's chill happened on January 12-19, when the Twin Cities had 86 consecutive hours below zero. This was the longest stretch since 1996. January 2009 was the coldest January since 1994 in the Twin Cities. February brought a break to winter weather, with 47 degrees on February 9th and 10, the latter tieing the record high for the date. There were enough cold spells in the month for February to finish near normal.

The 2008-09 winter kind of petered out in the Twin Cities... While other parts of Minnesota saw blizzards on March 10-11 and March 31-April 1, the Twin Cities escaped the wild weather and only wound up with an inch and a half of snow for the month. The average monthly temperature was near average. The season snowfall of 2008-09 in the Twin Cities was 45 inches. This was 11 inches below the normal of 55.9 inches. The last time the seasonal snowfall for the Twin Cities was above normal was back in 2003-04 with 66.3 inches.

Spring came right on schedule in the Twin Cities with the ice leaving White Bear Lake and Lake Minnetonka right around their long term averages. An early sign of dryness for the growing season was a spell of dry conditions and low humidity on April 14-16.

The pesky drought that began in 2006 in Minnesota intensified as showers avoided much of Minnesota in May. May 2009 was the third driest in the Twin Cities with only .53 inches of rainfall.

One of the stranger weather days of the year across the state was the heat wave of May 19-20. The mercury soared to 97 degrees at the Twin Cities airport. This was the warmest temperature recorded so early in the season in the Twin Cities back to 1891. At the same time it was 100 degrees in Granite Falls, it was 34 degrees at Grand Marais. In fact during the evening, with a cold wind of Lake Superior, freezing rain was reported at spots along the north shore. May 20 harkened back to the dust bowl days as the heat continued with high winds kicking up dust and dirt that sifted in through open windows and covered surfaces with grit.

Thoughts of a hot summer were dashed as cool conditions prevailed in June. There was also a lack of severe weather, with the first tornado not sighted in the state until June 17, one of the latest starts to the tornado season on record. In all there were 24 tornadoes in 2009, well below the 10 year average of 42 tornadoes. There were no deaths and no injuries due to a tornado in 2009. The last time there were no deaths or injuries due to tornadoes in Minnesota was in 2007. Some rain did fall in June, but not enough to ease the drought much.

The cool, but pleasant weather continued into July. The Twin Cities did not see a 90 degree temperature in July. This was only the eighth time since 1891 this has happened. It was the coldest July since 1996 in the Twin Cities. International Falls had its coldest July on record with 58.8 degrees. One saving grace of the cool weather was the fact that evaporation was lower due to the cool temperatures, and slowed the intensification of the drought.

One of the few severe weather events of the year to hit the Twin Cities happened in July. On July 24th, hail up to the size of golf balls plummeted on the east side of the Twin Cities.

The peak of the 2009 drought was the beginning of August when a small area of extreme drought could be found over the northeastern part of the Twin Cities metro area. Just in the nick of time, a stormy weekend of August 7-8 brought welcome rains over a wide swath of central and southern Minnesota. The Twin Cities International Airport saw 3.06 inches on August 7-8. The heavy rains in August helped to lessen the drought situation in east central Minnesota. The first three weeks of August saw over five inches in Forest Lake, which was in one of the more intense drought areas. One of the more bizarre events that stood out in 2009 was the tornadoes of August 19th, one of which touched down just south of downtown Minneapolis.

As the meteorological summer came to a close, one aspect of the weather that was notable in the Twin Cities was a lack of sultry days. In 107 years of dew point temperature measurements, 2009 had the lowest average early evening dew point temperature on record.

September extended summer a bit with a week's worth of high temperatures in the 80's. There was also an unusual weather pattern during the month too. A low pressure area over the Dakotas tracked westward to Montana. In the Twin Cities, September 2009 wound up being the 11th warmest and the 3rd driest on record.

October and November will be remembered as the two months that flip-flopped. October 2009 was the 4th coldest and 5th wettest on record for the Twin Cities, along with the 7th snowiest going back to 1891. On the plus side, the ample precipitation put a serious dent in drought conditions over much of Minnesota. The cold and wet conditions caused a significant delay the fall harvest. With the arrival of November, a prolonged mild and dry spell settled in, much to the delight of farmers with fieldwork to do. In fact, November 2009 was the second or third warmest in many Minnesota communities, including the second warmest November in the Twin Cities going back to 1891. Lake freeze-up was late for the time of year in many locals.

Wintry weather returned in December, with continuous snow cover in the Twin Cities beginning December 9. Temperatures across Minnesota ranged from 5 to 10 degrees below normal for the first half of December. While there is a significant snow cover over southeast Minnesota, there are places with scant snow cover, most notably along the North Shore of Lake Superior.

There was one more big weather maker at the end of 2009. A massive, slow-moving winter storm dumped a large amount of snow across most of Minnesota from December 23 to 26. Temperatures rising above freezing limited snowfall amounts in east central and south east Minnesota on Christmas Day. The highest snow totals were over the Red River Valley and in northeast Minnesota. Cold air pouring in from Canada froze the slushy remains on pavement surfaces in the Twin Cities and made walking difficult for days after the storm.