40s Sunday! Mild Winter: Winners and losers; Which are you?

45 degrees forecast high temp at MSP Sunday afternoon

(50s possible in western Minnesota!)

25 degrees average high temp Sunday at MSP

+20 degrees vs. average!

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7.9″ Season to date snowfall at MSP

-8″ snowfall vs. average season to date snowfall at MSP

34″ snowfall by this date in 2010!

+26.1″ snowfall to date in 2010 vs. this year!

+5.5 degrees November temps vs. average at MSP

+3.0 degrees December temps vs. average so far at MSP

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What a difference a year makes!

The fall & winter so far in 2011 is turning out to be one of the mildest and least snowy starts to winter on record.

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That’s a stark contrast to 2010 which featured one of the snowiest starts to the winter season on record.

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Snow came fast & furious in 2010!

There are people on both “sides” of a mild, nearly snowless winter. There are those who benefit greatly from the increased mobility and lower heating bills. There are also those who make a living with snow, and those who enjoy the abundant recreational opportunities that snow provides.

To put it bluntly, there are real, economic “winners and losers” this year. I’ve listed my take on a few below… but I’m far more interested in how you feel about our Missouri like winter so far?

Let’s see if we can reach a consensus this weekend, or if Minnesotans are divided on our “ideal” winter. Chime in!

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City & County Governments – Last year Minneapolis had already declared 2 snow emergencies by this date. Each snow emergency can cost the city of St. Paul up to $500,000.

A winter like this saves cities and counties millions in snow plow driver overtime, salt costs, vehicle maintenance and other costs.

Homeowners and business: – Own or rent a home? Run a business? Paying for heat?

You’re saving almost 20% on your heating bill this year.

Gas utilities use “Heating Degree Days” (HDD) to keep track of seasonal heating needs. The HDD is calculated by subtracting the day’s average temps from 65 degrees. (That’s a normal comfort level for homes) So if the average temp was 35 degrees on a given day, that would be 65-35=30 HDD.

In an average season (starting on July 1st) the Twin Cities has accumulated 2236 HDD by this date. This year we’ve had just 1854.

That’s about 83% of average, or a savings of $17 for every $100 you spend on monthly heating costs!

Snowplow drivers who charge by the month: It’s an annual gamble. “Do I pay my snowplow guy by the month or by the plow?” This year the guys who charge by the month are making bank to sit home and watch football.

Commuters and those with mobility challenges:

Remeber the number of nightmare rush hour commutes last winter? Remember the snow choked streets and sidewalks?

If you drive to work everyday you have to be happy about this winter so far. ‘Nuff said.

Some Wildlife: It can be tough to find food in deep snow!

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Resorts: It’s a cliché but it’s true. Resorts that run winter business centered on snowmobiles, cross country skiing and ice fishing love it cold & snowy. There’s been little of either this year. You’ll need to head to the Arrowhead or the lake effect snow belts of Wisconsin and Michigan’s U.P to get decent snow.

Many of the resorts on Mille Lacs are still waiting for about 10″ of ice to roll out the big fish houses this year. That’s later than usual.

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Sunset on Mille Lacs Friday. Image courtesy MNlakecams.com

Auto repair shops: last year’s snow blitz produced early potholes, and accidents by the thousands. That was bank for auto repair and body shops. This year they’ll have to wait.

Ski Areas: Yes, they can and are making good artificial snow. But business really gets booming after a good powdery snowfall. This year? Not so much.

Snowplow drivers who charge by the plow: Last year my neighbor, really great guy, and snow plow guru Howie clipped me for about 9 plow jobs. I haven’t seen him this year. He’s a great guy and I’m happy to have him plow my 2″ threshold, but I’m not crying in my beer after last year’s bill!

There are many more angles on this year’s version of “Winter Light” so far, both economic and social and with everyday life. What’s yours?

Have a great weekend!


  • Fr. Paul Kammen

    Hi Paul,

    I’ve commented before but I really enjoy this. I can get around much easier. As a priest, when I go to the cemetery for funerals, there’s not a ton of snow to drive through. We also have more space for parking as there are no huge piles. I’m firmly anti-snow and it’s been quite a nice start – and days start getting longer soon too. So we’ll see what happens, but the dry weather has been quite nice in my opinion.

  • Craig

    I side with the Padre. Much easier for seniors to get around. I’ll take another month like this and then it can start warming up.

  • Jeffrey

    Put me in the camp of people who like this mild winter. Last year was so hard with so much snow. I have to park on the street and had to deal with 9 snow emergencies. This year it has been so nice to not have to worry about where my car is parked. Also, it is easier to drive on bare pavement.

    The mild temps are also great. I hope the whole winter is mild.

  • Beth

    I asked my son if he will miss having snow on the ground for Christmas vacation. He said ” It doesn’t matter. We ( his buddies ) plan to take a bike ride on the trails. Kids learn to deal with things quite well.

  • Tom H

    I suppose I will stand up and be heard in place of those who love Minnesota winters and are so disheartened by the recent lack of anything resembling that elusive crystalline substance that they cannot even break themselves to speak.

    One of the great perks of living in Minnesota is that you get to enjoy the full range of seasonal activities. Residents can enjoy things such as Camping, biking, fishing, swimming, etc in the spring, summer, and fall. That is nearly three full seasons no-snow-required recreation . There are many of us who also enjoy skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, snowshoeing, ice fishing, etc. Some of these activities require just as much, if not more of a monetary investment than their summertime counter parts. All this, just to enjoy them for two, maybe three months if you are lucky.

    When I hear people state how greatful they are for winters like this, I cant help but think they are not getting the full enjoyment possible by living in a state that has such a great range of seasons and seasonal recreation. When they say things along the lines of hoping/wishing for an entire winter like this, or for an early end to the season I have visions of screaming at them to move to a state where conditions like this are normal for December, and leave these dual season states to those of us who not only know how to enjoy them, but are also wishing for at least some thing average!

  • Tim

    Chalk me up as one those crazy people that actually loves winter. I’ve been dying to get out and play some hockey outside on the frozen rinks, but as we all know the weather hasn’t been working in favor of winter lovers.

  • Jim C

    It breaks my heart to read comments from people who prefer a brown, dry and warm winter. Not only does this bode ill for those who embrace all the amazing year round activities nature offers in MN, but Paul Hutner also forgot to mention the significant negative economic impact this weather will have on our substantial agricultural businesses.

    So, for those of you cheering for global warming, bah humbug! I say if you don’t appreciate the snow, then you also shouldn’t get to enjoy MN summers and all they offer either; move south and don’t gripe when your cooling and water bills dwarf the minor costs of some snow.

  • Jane WH

    I lament the lack of snow and 10 degree (or colder) weather. While I appreciate lower heating costs, I feel more chilled with the dampness that seems to accompany 30 degree temps. And I don’t feel justified in referring to myself as a hardy Minnesotan when we’re experiencing a Nebraska-like climate.

  • John H.


    All those people who bought snow blowers early this year after last years sell out. You know you are dieing to try that new machine on a serious snow event.

  • Matt M


    As a snowboarder, this has been a boring winter so far. The slopes are icy and have the distinct texture of man-made snow. I hope we get a big storm some time soon!

    I also love driving in the snow…. Since I was 16, I’ve always hopped in a vehicle and enjoyed a snow storm from the vantage of a drivers seat (usually on the way to the ski slopes!) Last year, had the pleasure of pulling 5 or 6 friendly folks who were stuck in the fluff, which always makes you feel good.

    Also, as a photographer, the brown is not much fun to shoot. Waiting for a nice dump of white to take some black n white shots in the woods.