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Big snows this week for parts of the state

Big snows this week for parts of the state:

February 20-23, 2023 will long be remembered for heavy snowfalls across the state. A series of three low-pressure systems brought snowfalls to much of the state over those days. These storms mostly affected central and southern portions of Minnesota, although the snowfall on February 21st was record-setting at Leech Lake, with 5.0 inches and at Cass Lake with 3.8 inches. Most of the record or near-record snowfalls occurred over February 22-23. 

Some examples of daily snowfall records on February 22nd are:
6.0 inches at Rosemount
5.2 inches at Minnesota City
5.0 inches at Marshall and Dawson
4.8 inches at Windom

Records on February 23rd included:
13.0 inches at Owatonna
11.4 inches at Wabasha
10.2 inches at Lamberton
10.0 inches at Red Wind Dam
9.0 inches at Faribault

More impressive were the snowfall totals, which left a large footprint of 10 to 20 inches across the southern half of the state. Tauton in Lyon County reported 21 inches, while observers in Apple Valley reported 19 inches. Canby and Cambridge reported 17 inches, while Madison and Worthington reported 15 inches. St Joseph, just north of St Cloud also reported 15 inches.

Though the overall amounts of snowfall were not as abundantly record-setting as expected earlier in the week, the National Weather Service did a good job designating watches and warnings for appropriate areas of the state. Over February 22-23 many western and central Minnesota roads and highways were closed for a time because of blizzard conditions. Wind gusts from 30 to 40 mph were reported from several locations. More comprehensive analysis and reporting of this February winter storm can be found at DNR-State Climatology web site.

February which was tracking to be drier than normal up until the rains of Valentine’s Day, now looks like it will be very much wetter than normal with many climate stations already reporting 2 to 3 times normal snowfall or precipitation.

Some of the Worst February Winter Storms

Some of the worst February winter storms to strike Minnesota came on February 13-16, 1866, and February 21-23, 1922. The 1866 blizzard struck violently and suddenly about 10 pm on the 13th and raged for three days, leaving 15-20 foot drifts of snow across southern Minnesota.

Temperatures dropped by 30 to 40 degrees F during the storm and there was very little visibility. Many livestock perished, but most people remained safely indoors as a result of the storm striking at night. The 1922 storm brought thunder, lightning, rain showers, sleet, freezing rain, snow, and blizzard conditions as it developed over the 21st to 23rd of February. The ice storm hit mostly southeastern counties coating power lines and trees with thick ice that caused breakage

and much damage. The observer at Grand Meadow (Mower County) called it “the worst ice storm” to ever hit that community, with “great damage to trees and power lines.” Communities in western and northern counties received snowfall amounts that set new February records, many of which still stand today. Willmar reported 14 inches, Montevideo 19 inches, Morris 15 inches, Fergus Falls 13.2 inches, Milaca 22 inches, and Detroit Lakes a whopping 25 inches, still the statewide 24-hour snowfall record for February. Detroit Lakes picked up 43 inches of snow that month and reported a snow depth of 50 inches on February 28th.

There is speculation that the storms of February 25-26, 1843 at Ft Snelling and February 5-7, 1857 at Ft Ripley may have been blizzards on the same scale as those mentioned above. However, complete data on these storms is not to be found.

Weekly Weather Potpourri:

This week NOAA featured an interesting article about how parts of the West and Southwestern USA were drenched by a series of heavy rainfalls during December and January. This was not expected because of the current La Nina episode in the equatorial Pacific Ocean which usually associated with a drier than normal pattern across Western USA geography. The authors go to some length to explain what was behind this very wet pattern.

The Weather Channel reports this week that a rare cold winter storm will affect Southern California on Friday and Saturday, bringing heavy rainfalls and snowfalls to many areas, with blizzard conditions in some parts of Ventura County mountains and Los Angeles County mountains. Travel will be difficult in many areas.

The BBC reported this week that over 7000 people from coastal communities in Madagascar were evacuated due to the landfall of Cyclone Freddy which packed winds of over 80 mph. Many structures suffered wind damage. Heavy rains and high waves (25 feet) brought flooding to some parts of the country. The Cyclone was expected to bring heavy rains to Mozambique into the weekend.

This week’s AGU-EOS Bulletin contains a fascinating article about new technologies available for mapping lightning in 3-D with very high resolution. A new 3-dimensional broadband radio frequency interferometric mapping and polarization system (BIMAP-3D) has been developed and deployed at Los Alamos National Laboratory for lightning research. The BIMAP-3D provides an unprecedented capability in high-resolution, time-evolving 3D lightning source mapping and 3D source polarization detection for detailed study of lightning discharge physics.

MPR listener question:

With all of the snow this week, we were wondering what is the snowiest February in Minnesota history?


Pigeon River (Cook County) reported 51 inches of snowfall in February of 1939. I might add that many places in southeastern Minnesota reported from 40 to 49 inches in February of 2019, not that long ago.

Twin Cities Almanac for February 24th:

The average MSP high temperature for this date is 32 degrees F (plus or minus 13 degrees F standard deviation), while the average low is 16 degrees F (plus or minus 14 degrees F standard deviation).

MSP Local Records for February 24th:

MSP records for this date: highest daily maximum temperature of 59 degrees F in 1880; lowest daily maximum temperature of -2 degrees F in 1967; lowest daily minimum temperature of -20 degrees F in 1967; highest daily minimum temperature of 42 degrees F in 2000; record precipitation of 1.90 inches in 1930. Record snowfall is 4.8 inches in 2007.

Average dew point for February 24th is 16°F; the maximum dew point on this date is 45°F in 2000; and the minimum dew point on this date is -34 degrees F in 1950.

All-time state records for February 24th:

The state record high temperature for this date is 67 degrees F at Pipestone (Pipestone County) in 1958. The state record low temperature for this date is -46 degrees F at Red Lake Falls (Red Lake County) in 1955. The state record precipitation for this date is 1.90 inches in the Twin Cities (Hennepin County) in 1930. Record snowfall is 19.0 inches at Beaver Bay (Lake County) in 1868.

Past Weather:

An Arctic air mass settled over the state on February 24, 1955 bringing subzero temperatures to all areas but the extreme southeast. Many parts of northern Minnesota saw morning low temperatures of -30°F or colder. The afternoon high temperature at Angus in the Red River Valley only reached -8°F.

A large winter storm brought rain, sleet, and heavy snowfall to the state over February 24-25 of 2001. Many climate stations reported 8 to 18 inches of snowfall, with over 20 inches along the north shore of Lake Superior. Lutsen Mountain ended up with over 47 inches of snowfall that month.

February 24, 2002 brought a very warm and sunny afternoon to parts of southern Minnesota. High temperatures of 60°F or greater were reported from 10 different counties, and most of the rest of southern Minnesota basked in 50 degrees F.


Sunnier over the weekend with daytime temperatures near normal or a few degrees above normal. Later on Sunday and into Monday there will be a chance for snow in the north, rain and snow in central portions of the state, and possibly some freezing rain in southern sections. Then there will be a chance for snow again on Wednesday.

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