A Negative Anniversary

It was on October 26, 1919 that the earliest below zero temperature was recorded in Fargo/Moorhead (records go back to 1881).  This year we’ve had trouble getting below 32, let alone zero, but it can get cold this time of year.  It would come as no surprise that the -4 degrees recorded on this date in 1919 was preceded by a 3.5" snowfall, so three inches was still on the ground that cold morning.  You may remember (or may not want to remember) that we dropped below zero in very early November of 1991 (the 4th) following the "Halloween Blizzard" that year.  Today’s record low of -4 is also the coldest temperature recorded in the month of October.


It appears the cold air that moved through the area this
weekend associated with a trough of low pressure will move into the Great
and Mid-Atlantic States
and then stall. This "blocking pattern" will mean our area will
have the upper-level wind coming from the northwest with surface high pressure
dominating our weather. This tends to be a dry and pleasant pattern for us. So expect a light wind the next couple of days with just
subtle changes each day thereafter. Our high temperatures will be in the 50s and lows in
the 30s for most of the week.

Wilma Part II

As of 10:00 am CDT on Friday Hurricane Wilma was a Category 4 storm with maximum sustained wind of 145 mph with higher gusts. See images below:

It appears that Wilma will slowly move over the Yucatan Peninsula for the next 36 hours and then turn toward Florida perhaps arriving in south Florida next Monday night or Tuesday.

Record breaking Wilma

Hurricane Wilma strengthened quickly overnight and this morning the pressure had dropped to 882 mb (26.05 inches of mercury) which is the lowest pressure ever recorded in any hurricane in the Atlantic basin. The old record was 888 mb set back in 1988 in Hurricane Gilbert. Below is a satellite image from Wednesday morning of Wilma:

You will notice the very small eye, only around 3 miles in diameter, small eyes are often associated with powerful hurricanes. Wilma had sustained wind of 175 mph with higher gusts when the above satellite image was taken. Although the clouds associated with Wilma cover a huge area, the hurricane force wind (74 mph and higher) associated with Wilma only extend outward to 15 miles from the center (so 30 miles in diameter). In other words, Wilma is a small, extremely intense hurricane. I heard a forecaster from the National Hurricane Center call her a "large tornado". With such a small, tight, intense center of circulation, the name almost fits.

If you’re curious, it appears Wilma will hit Florida as a much weaker (but still dangerous) Hurricane this weekend. Stay tuned.

T-Storms Last Night

Last night was one of those times I felt like beating my head against the wall. A cold front passed through the area last night and the computer models gave no indication of any precipitation as it passed through. Radar showed some light showers to the north and a few sprinkles out near Jamestown. So for the southern valley I put a few sprinkles in the forecast. Just after finishing the 10pm news, a thunderstorm pops up in eastern Clay County and then a line procedes to rapidly develope stretching all the way north to International Falls. One little area of this line may have had some small hail and a severe thunderstorm warning was issued for Becker County.

So for those of you in Minnesota who were awoken by thunder after I had said only a sprinkle, I apologize. Meteorology is often a humbling profession.

Rob Kupec

Cold Winter???

   I keep hearing in the media that gas prices are expected to be 50% higher this winter, making it hard for people to keep their homes comfortable in this upcoming hard winter.

   I have no quarrel with this story except for the last line… The story always ends with a comment from the reporter about how this is supposed to be a cold winter. My problem is here… Where does this information come from?

   First of all, we all know that all seasonal forecasting is rather poor. It’s not that forecasters are incompetent; it’s just really hard to get a seasonal forecast right because there are so many different factors that can have an effect on the weather over a season.  That being said, most reporters use the forecast from the National Climate Prediction Center when they quote a long range forecast.  The thing is, the Climate Prediction Center is NOT calling for a hard winter this year.  Check it out for yourself.  Climate Prediction Center 

   Sometimes I think these national media reporters hear a forecast on another network and then repeat it without checking it out in the first place.  If this is the case, then shame on them for being careless.  Of course, they could be using a different source such as the Old Farmer’s Almanac, but I’d rather not even go there…

Big October Snow

The snowstorm that hit North Dakota this October 4 was certainly not the earliest snowstorm in state history, but it was notable for its ferocity.

It began snowing in Dickinson in the early evening of the 3rd. Reports out of there had the total at 15" by morning. The heavy, wet snow took down tree limbs still covered with yellow leaves and power outages were a problem.

Through the night and early morning hours of the 4th, the snow slowly creeped eastward. Thundershowers dropped 1.76" of rain on Fargo after midnight. Heavy storms produced up to 9" of rain in southern Minnesota and nearly 5" at the Minneapolis airport station.

As the low became stacked vertically, the surface low stalled over eastern North Dakota near Grand Forks, where it sat all day, pulling mild air northward. During the afternoon, Fargo’s wind shifted to SSW and the temperature warmed to 53`.

Meanwhile, north-central North Dakota was getting hammered with 8" to 18" of snow that, again, broke branches and snapped power lines around Minot and Devils Lake (and places in between). Another 0.02" of rain fell on Fargo.

During the evening of the 4th, as the low wound itself up and began to creep northeastward toward northwest Minnesota, blizzard-force winds developed across the Devils Lake basin. Wind peaked at 45 mph with a gust to 52 at the Devils Lake airport. The National Weather Service issued a Blizzard Warning for the Devils Lake area at that time. Later in the evening, the Blizzard Warning area was expanded to include most of northeastern North Dakota north and west of Grand Forks.

A narrow deformation-zone snow line developed mid-evening and began spreading southward, reaching northern Barnes county around 9 PM. As this band rotated around the surface low, it brought brief blowing snow conditions to much of the region north of Fargo at some point during the night.

Of course, this was not a "freak" storm. I don’t believe in that term. A similar snowstorm hit north-central and northeast North Dakota on October 7-8, 1985. That was my first North Dakota snowstorm as I had just moved to Fargo and WDAY-WDAZ in May of that year.

Just like this year, Fargo was on the southeast edge of that storm and received just a trace of snow, but my memory tells me there was 14" in Velva and 12" in Minot that time. This storm was a little heavier and had stronger winds… but clearly snowstorms in early October in North Dakota are not a sign of doom… It’s just another tale to tell of a part of the world that is famous for weather extremes.

Warm September

For the second straight year we had a warm September. September 2005 finished in the top 10 coming in as the 8th warmest on record. Besides the 1″ plus rain event on September 5th, most of the rest of the month was dry. Too bad our nice warm September (and first couple of days of October) is being replaced by the threat of snow on Wednesday. Oh the joys of living in the Red River Valley of the north. 😉