“Historic” southern blizzard; Does cold February signal an emerging trend?

“Historic Blizzard”

We’re used to the term “blizzard” in these parts.

Images of a Red River Valley “whiteout” come to mind. Closed freeways near Fargo. Jam packed truck stops in Alexandria. School closings in Morris.

But the images coming from the Texas Panhandle are eye opening, even ot hearty Minnesotans. Cars abandoned in snow choked streets? 5 foot snow drifts?

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Images: NWS Amarillo, TX

That’s the stuff of Minnesota legend…not so much in Texas. Talk about a “Blue Norther.”

Winter Storm “Rocky” delivered his punch to Texas, and is still swinging from Kansas to Chicago today. How much snow did Rocky dump?

Where do we stand in Minnesota for snowfall this season? And is our cold February a sign of a trend toward cooler months?

We’ll take a look in this edition of Updraft.

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19″ snowfall total at Amarillo, Texas

75 mph wind gusts in Amarillo Monday

5 foot snow drifts

37F high in the Twin Cities Monday

7″ snow depth at MSP this morning (we melted 1″ yesterday)

-2.6F February temps vs. average so far at MSP Airport

+1.0F estimated temps vs. average overall at MSP this “meteorological winter” (Dec-Feb)

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Snow Attack:

That may be the best way to describe what happened in Amarillo, Texas Monday.

The Amarillo NWS is calling the 3rd biggest blizzard on record at Amarillo “historic.”

Check out the impressive snowfall totals over 1 foot….to as much as 19″ on the map below.

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Image: NWS Amarillo

This guy braved the height of the blizzard….75 mph winds and all. Really more of a “snow hurricane?”

The hurricane force winds whipped up snow drifts to 5 feet around Amarillo Monday.

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I’ve made the drive from Arizona to Minnesota through the Texas Panhandle. That’s one place you don’t want to get caught in the open during a blizzard. There’s simply no place to hide.

Rocky marches on:

Kansas City is still feeling the effects of Rocky today, where over 1 foot of snow will fall south of town.

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It’s snowing as far north as Des Moines and heavy snow is on I-35 near Lamoni.

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High winds are pounding Chicago on the shore of Lake Michigan, and a slightly “less productive” storm will still produce some 3″ to 6″ snow totals.

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Here are the forecast wind gusts from WGN’s (my former Chicago gig) RPM model today.

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How to dismantle a drought: 1 storm at a time

This storm is just the latest in a series of systems that has dumped productive rain and snow in the Central Plains over the past few months.

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There has been enough rain…and snow to have an impact on drought conditions in Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois and even eastern Iowa.

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Heavy snow in from Kansas to Missouri, Iowa and Illinois will feed melt water runoff into the Mississippi watershed this spring…and will help boost river levels. That’s going to help ease the “hydrologic” part of the drought…at least in the short term this spring.

The latest drought outlook calls for some improvement in the drought over the central USA, with continued drought “persistence” in the West.

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Basically the wetter pattern of the past 3 months in the central USA is “eating away” at the eastern end of the drought.

The agricultural or “soils” drought is more dependent on spring rainfall after the thaw.

February 2013 : Cooler trend emerging?

Today’s Twin Cities NWS “Weather Story” highlights the fact that February 2013 was cooler than average in the metro. In fact it was just the 2nd cooler than average month in the past 21 months at MSP Airport.

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But what caught my eye is that February was also the 2nd colder than average month in the past 5 months at MSP.

After the run of incredibly warm weather for over a year at MSP, the character of our weather changed last fall. October may have been the first signal of that change.

Looking ahead to March, it’s likely that we may be colder than average the first half of the month.

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If March finishes colder than average (as I suspect it might) that will make 3 of the past 6 months colder than average in the metro and Minnesota.

Start of a trend? Too early to tell but definitely a “departure” from where we have been the past 2 years.

Stay tuned.


  • Disco

    Yeah, 19 inches of snow in Amarillo. But they can take heart knowing it will all be gone soon. Saturday’s forecast high is 50.

    Minnesota, on the other hand, will be staring at ice and dirty snow until probably April. Hooray!

  • Fr. Paul Kammen

    Well, that shred of hope that I had after last week’s blog about some warmer weather for early March is now completely gone, and I am once again thoroughly disheartened, depressed, and realizing I will not see anything green until I get off a plane in Houston on April 10th. Please, make it stop. Complaining is kind of therapeutic, but I am hoping we can at least get some 40s going and ease into the 50s as the month goes on.

  • Israel

    Paul, I don’t remember you using TWC’s winter storm names. Are you going to start using them?

  • Mark Weinberger

    After last year’s non-winter we’re enjoying the snow and cooler temperatures. A cooler March with more snow would be the perfect way to ease into spring. I can only hope that it comes true.