Spring flakes out: After record-setting winter, more cold and snow marks the start of spring
Believe it or not, spring has sprung.
March 20, marks the first day of spring – though it’s hard to tell with cold temperatures still clinging and snowfalls not slowing down.
At press time Tuesday, some weather reports were calling for 2 to 4 inches of snow in the Perham area, with a chance of more on Friday and next Monday. Temperatures for the week were not expected to get above 40 degrees.
Elsewhere in Minnesota, as much as 5 inches of snow fell overnight Monday, and heavy snowfall of 6 to 12 inches was projected in areas ranging from Alexandria to Duluth.
In short, it still felt a lot like winter.
Nevertheless, the start of spring has a hopeful feeling about it – a promise of better things to come after a long, hard winter.
There’s been a lot of talk over the past few months about the cold and wind that have persistently plagued the Perham area and the rest of the Midwest.
But how bad was it, really?
According to the National Weather Service, it was bad, but it’s been worse.
Provisional data for the Fargo area shows that this winter tied for fifth place as one of the worst winters on record, as far as the number of days the temperature hit zero or below.
From December through February, temperatures were at or below zero for 65 out of a total 90 days. The historical average number of subzero days during these months is 45, or 20 less than were recorded this winter (records go back to 1881).
The winter of 1882-1883 takes the cake in this category, with a record 76 days of below zero temperatures. Other winters that beat out this one were the winters of 1884, 1887, 1950 and 1965.
That means there hasn’t been a winter around here with this many subzero days for nearly 50 years.
In terms of average temperature overall, the situation was just slightly better.
Temperatures from December through February averaged 4.3 degrees in the Fargo area: 9.2 degrees lower than the historical norm.
That makes this the 17th coldest winter on record, the same as what’s being reported for the Twin Cities area.
Historical weather data for the immediate Perham area is not readily available from an official source.
The season’s cold temperatures contributed to a high number of school closings and delays, fuel shortages and skyrocketed prices, icy roads that led to a number of accidents, and a collective feeling of cabin fever among residents, among other things.
As Ottertail resident Coke Jahnke put it, “This winter was very cold and put us through many challenging things, (such as) keeping cars going almost 24 hours trying to keep them warm, and putting the heating bill higher than ever. I look forward to spring – to warmer weather, fresh cut grass and planting the garden.”
“The meteorological winter of 2013-2014 will be long remembered... but not necessarily for the reasons many folks think,” stated the National Weather Service out of Grand Forks, N.D., in a climate data published on its website. “True, it was unusually cold, but it was not the coldest on record.”
Despite how it may have felt on a day-to-day basis, with wind chill advisories and blizzard warnings a regular occurrence, wind speeds and snowfall accumulation weren’t far from the norm.
The total three month snowfall was 27.9 inches, “which is pretty much in the middle of the statistical pack,” according to the weather service. And the average wind speed of 11.7 mph is only about 3 mph above the long-term median.
These numbers are all provisional. Official records will be released sometime later this spring or early summer.
As far as what’s in store for the spring, Minnesota meteorologists are saying the trends lean toward more days in the 20s, 30s and above over the next few weeks.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting average temperatures of 55 or below through May, according to unofficial forecasts issued in February.
The Farmers’ Almanac predicts that spring will start late and be exceptionally wet for most parts of the country, with rain and freezing conditions continuing on and off through the end of April in the Midwest.