Top Five Weather Events of the Decade in Minnesota: 2000-2009
For the first decade of the 2000's there was a year with a record number of tornadoes, 74 in 2001. There was also a year with very few tornadoes, 18 in 2007. In all there were only four deaths due to tornadoes in the first decade of the 2000's, compared to eight deaths in the 1990's. The July 25, 2000 Granite Falls tornado was the strongest tornado of the 2000's so far and was the only F4 tornado recorded in the state from 2000 to 2009.
The North Shore of Lake Superior is no stranger to ice storms, but it's been some time when one has been so extensive has struck along the coast. One of the heaviest ice storms in years hit the Arrowhead on March 23-24, 2009 and coated areas away from Lake Superior with one to two inches of ice. Warm air aloft surged ahead of a low pressure system, making the clouds warm enough for the precipitation to fall as rain. Cold air over Lake Superior was pushed ashore by easterly winds. The resulting ice accumulation led to widespread tree damage. In some forested areas just inland from Lake Superior 75 percent or more of the trees were damaged. Power was out for several days in many areas hit by the ice storm, and in some spots power was restored a week later. Especially hard hit were Two Harbors, Finland and Grand Marias. The ice coatings on tree branches made a beautiful scene, but along with the beauty came the crashing sound of branches as they snapped and fell to the ground.
The Snowstorm of November 26-27, 2001 stood out because of the estimated 10 foot waves that smashed into Duluth's Canal Park. The Lakewalk in Canal Park was severely damaged by the waves. 30 inches of snow was measured in Willmar with this storm, a total in retrospect may have been inflated a bit due to the techniques used to measure the snow at the site. The next largest total was 18 inches at New London.
On March 29, 2009, the Red River crested at a record of 40.82 feet in Fargo, and there was a secondary crest of 34 feet on April 16. The Red River didn't drop to below flood stage in Fargo until May 20, making it a 61 day flood. Some factors that lead to the 2009 Red River Flood were: Heavy autumn precipitation, deep frost in the ground, heavy winter snows, and an unfavorable melt pattern. The middle of March 2009 was very warm and allowed rapid snowmelt. Finally, There were heavy rains on March 22 to 25th which aggravated the flood.
One of the largest weather events in Minnesota history happened during the first decade of the 2000ís. This was the heavy rain event that led to extensive flooding in southeast Minnesota on August 18-20, 2007. The heavy rain was from a series of thunderstorms that moved along a stalled frontal boundary. What made this flood particularly dangerous was that it happened at night.
There were seven deaths, six of which were associated with vehicles plunging into floodwaters, or driving into washouts. The flood caused an estimated $67 million dollars in property damage and 1,500 homes were damaged. One couple (Roger and Bonnie Oldham) escaped the floodwaters to the roof of their home, which then ripped off its foundation and floated in the floodwaters, coming to rest when it snagged on a railroad track. The couple was rescued five hours later.
The record for the largest 24 hour rainfall total ever measured by an official National Weather Service Station in Minnesota was broken. 15.1 inches was measured near Hokah in Houston County. This broke the old record from the "Granddaddy Flood" of 10.84 inches measured at the city of Fort Ripley on July 22, 1972. The National Weather Service Cooperative Observer who measured the record amount needed help to lift the gauge since the 8 inch stainless steel gauge with 15 inches of water in it weighed over 30 pounds.
The largest multiday total from a Soil and Water Conservation District observer was 20.85 inches near the town of Houston in northern Houston County.
This honorable mention should really have a spot in the top 5. The Blizzard of April 25-26, 2009 was one of the heaviest snowfalls recorded in April. The highest snowfall totals were around 18 inches near Pelican Rapids and Fergus Falls. This storm, and the cold air that followed delayed ice out for lakes across central and northern Minnesota.
January 2006 in Minnesota finished an amazingly 17 degrees above normal. For the Twin Cities, it was the warmest January in 160 years, only January 1846 was warmer. That 1846 balmy reading was measured at Ft. Snelling. Minnesota didnít even have a newspaper to report on the unusually mild conditions back then. The January temperature in the Twin Cities was 28.6 degrees, the 1971-2000 normal is 13.1 degrees.
The spring flooding of 2001 in Minnesota could also be a contender for a top weather event of the decade. The Mississippi River had it's 3rd largest crest in St. Paul, behind only 1969 and 1965.
Rare outside polar locations, spectacular light pillars were seen after dark in the Twin Cities, St. Cloud and the surrounding region. Ice pillars are also called "false aurora" and look somewhat similar to Northern Lights. The ice pillars of December 3, 2005 were caused by ice crystals falling with their flat sides horizontally in the clear night sky hours after a light snow had ended. The snow crystals acted like mirrors to reflect the light above street lights and other light sources. A further description of ice pillars can be found at the U of M News Website.
In one of the stranger tornado events of the decade, a tornado touched down just south of downtown Minneapolis and lifted near the Minneapolis Convention Center. It was an odd storm with bursts of intense showers, but little thunder as it raced northward. The skies would continue murky for the rest of the afternoon with six other relatively weak tornadoes reported in Minnesota.
The Blizzard of February 28 to March 2, 2007 was memorable for snowing in Duluth's Park Point. Many homes were surrounded by snow drifts of 15 to 20 feet. This blizzard covered a huge area and one of the largest snowfall totals was 20.2 inches at Andover in Anoka County.