Remember the Halloween Blizzard of 1991

Weather forecasts are often on the mark and slowly improving, but they’ll never be perfect. October 31, 1991 was Exhibit A. The Halloween Superstorm tracked up the Mississippi and then did something that none of the weather models caught in advance. It stalled.

A New England blizzard (later turned into a book and movie as “The Perfect Storm”) stalled, causing Minnesota’s storm to stall out over Lake Superior, prolonging torrents of snow. The result: 8 inches on Halloween, a total of 28.4 inches at MSP, with a snowplow-clogging 37 inches at Duluth. November 1991 brought 47 inches of snow, the most of any month on record at MSP.

And here I thought 4-8 inches was going out on a limb. We got our those 8 inches alright.

Expect chilled sunshine today; Trick or Treat temperatures in the low 30s with a light breeze. Piece of cake. Friday flurries give way to a blustery weekend as more clippers push out of Canada.

Models hint at a few inches next Thursday, but no blizzards or White Walkers are in sight.

Photo above of Duluth courtesy of Duluth News Tribune. Possibly my favorite news photo ever. Wow.

Halloween Blizzard of 1991. Who can forget? I’d like to forget, because this storm showed the utter limitations of meteorology. In the end Mother Nature gets the last laugh. Here’s an excerpt of a good recap at Wikipedia: “In eastern Minnesota, the Halloween Blizzard shattered many of the previous October snowfall records. The 8.2 inches that fell in the Twin Cities on October 31 was more snow than had ever been recorded in any October in its recorded history. November 1 saw similar daily records fall, but with a more wide reaching area from most of central Minnesota eastward to La Crosse and Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Following the storm Arctic air poured southward from Canada to produce many record low temperatures in these same areas. Bismarck, North Dakota, sank to −10 °F on October 31, breaking their previous record low of 6 °F (−14 °C) by 16 degrees. Record snow and cold was recorded as far south as Nebraska and Colorado.The Arctic air also spread over Chicago, recording a low of 11 on November 4. Four weeks later on November 29 – 30, another large storm system dropped as much as 18 inches of snow over these same areas. These two storms combined to set a single-month record for most snowfall in the Twin Cities and Duluth…”

Halloween 1991 Snowfall Map. 28″ in the Twin Cities and 37″ at Duluth? Serious snow (well over 2 feet) in a swath from the Twin Cities metro to the Minnesota Arrowhead.Map: Minnesota DNR.

Snowy Halloween for the Windy City. ECMWF prints out 3-6″ for Rockford, Chicago, Milwaukee and Madison today. Great fun.

Relatively Mild Mid-November? At some point the weather pendulum will swing back in the other direction and temperatures will rise above average for a spell. Based on GFS guidance that may very well happen within 2 weeks.

Duluth, Which Hasn’t Declared a Snow Emergency in More Than 12 Years, Looking to Overhaul Rules. Yes, they probably are hardier, and they have FAR less traffic on their highways. Star Tribune reports; here’s an excerpt: “…Minneapolis and St. Paul each declared a handful of snow emergencies last winter, when the Twin Cities received a whooping 77 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service. Duluth surpassed that total by almost 3 feet. But Benning said he still doesn’t expect to have to declare snow emergencies as frequently as they do in the metro. “We’re a little hardier up here in Duluth,” he said. “This isn’t going to be a couple inches of snow. When you see it, you’re going to know why I declared it.” This coming winter, officials said they plan to focus on education more than enforcement…”

Photo credit: Brian Peterson, StarTribune. Duluth may start a system for clearing heavy snow on its streets and sidewalks under a new city ordinance.”

FIRES: Strong winds stoke flames, fears as Kincade Fire rages on (Mercury News), ‘when I smelled that smoke … here we go again’: Weary Californians seek shelter amid latest wildfire outbreak (USA Today), Kincade Fire gets dangerously close to Napa Valley and Sonoma vineyards (CBS), PG&E’s role in Sonoma fire questioned as power outage frustrations grow (Washington Post $), MAP: How big are the California fires? See size, shape of dozens of blazes (NBC), ‘it takes one ember … to start another brush fire’: Extreme winds put California fire officials on high alert (USA Today), a ‘high-end and dangerous’ Santa Ana wind event will dramatically escalate California’s fire risk starting Tuesday night (Washington Post $), the California fires show how unprepared we are for climate change (The Verge), here’s how climate change-driven fires are changing life in the Golden State (CNN), another windstorm will complicate the battle against Northern California’s Kincade Fire (Washington Post $), wildfires are pushing Californians out of the state: ‘if it’s gone, we’re gone’  (New York Times $), power company says it is likely responsible for starting one of the most destructive fires in California history (CNN), PG&E trade punishes hedge funds as California burns (Wall Street Journal $)

Praedictix Briefing: Wednesday, October 30th, 2019

  • Several wildfires continue to burn in southern and northern California, with the largest being the Kincade Fire in northern California.
  • Extreme fire danger will continue today across portions of southern California as a strong Santa Ana wind event occurs across the region. The strongest winds are expected to occur today with wind gusts up to 80 mph possible in the mountains. These strong winds along with low humidity values and dry fuels will allow any new/ongoing fires to rapidly spread across the region.
  • We should see winds start to decrease into Thursday across the region, but especially during the morning hours strong winds to 65 mph could lead to extreme fire danger once again.

Active Fires. Fires continue to burn across California this morning, with the largest continuing to be the Kincade Fire in northern California. Here’s an update on some of the fires across the region (you can find the interactive version of the map above along with more information on these fires from CalFire here:

  • Kincade Fire: The Kincade Fire has burned 76,138 acres and is 15% contained. Numerous evacuation orders and warnings remain in place.
  • Tick Fire: The Tick Fire has burned 4,615 acres and is 90% contained.
  • Getty Fire: The Getty Fire has burned 656 acres and is 15% contained. Mandatory evacuations remain in place, with 7,091 residences in this mandatory evacuation zone. This fire is being managed by the Los Angeles Fire Department, and the latest information can be found here:

Strong Wind Gusts This Morning. While the strong winds expected across southern California have been slightly delayed this morning, we have already seen a 60 mph gust reported at Highland Springs (southeast of Riverside) and a 57 mph gust at Warm Springs (northwest of Santa Clarita).

Extreme Fire Danger Today. Extremely critical fire danger is expected to continue today across portions of southern California, especially in the Peninsular and Transverse Ranges. Some of the strongest winds are expected during the morning hours when the pressure gradient is the tightest (around 8 AM) across the region, with sustained winds up to 50 mph and gusts up to 80 mph possible. Humidity values are also low across the region, helping to add fuel to existing/new fires across the region. The combination of the high winds and low humidity values will allow fires to rapidly spread today.

In northern California, critical fire weather conditions are already occurring this morning and will continue to be in place for the next several hours with sustained winds up to 30 mph and low humidity values expected. The winds will start to decrease as we head into the afternoon hours, helping to decrease the fire danger across the region.

Extreme Danger Continues Into Thursday. Even through the strongest winds across southern California are expected today, an extreme fire danger will continue into at least the morning hours Thursday for portions of Los Angeles, Ventura, Riverside, and San Diego Counties. Wind gusts to 65 mph will be possible during the early morning hours, especially in the San Diego and Riverside mountains, before starting to weaken into the midday hours.

Red Flag Warnings. Due to the fire danger over the next few days, Red Flag Warnings are in effect. This means that fire weather conditions will be in place, including those strong winds and low humidity values, which would allow any new or ongoing fires to rapidly spread.

Wind Concerns. Due to the expected strong winds across the region, Wind Advisories and High Wind Warnings are in place. In northern California, Wind Advisories are in place through Noon due to wind gusts up to 60 mph, particularly near canyons. Winds will be on the decrease late this morning across the region. In southern California, High Wind Warnings are in place through either Noon or 6 PM Thursday depending on your location due to wind gusts of 60-80 mph. The strongest winds are expected Wednesday, with potentially lower wind speeds tonight into Thursday. Meanwhile, a Wind Advisory is in place for Los Angeles through Noon Thursday for northwest winds of 15-25 with gusts to 50 mph, particularly near hills and canyons.

D.J. Kayser, Meteorologist, Praedictix

Another Windstorm Set to Complicate Battle Against Northern California Kincaid Fire. Capital Weather Gang analyzes the risk; here’s an excerpt: “…The repeated high wind events are resulting in dry vegetation that will burn easily if any new fires ignite. In fact, forecasters in San Francisco said they have never before seen three red flag warning events in a seven-day period. “I’ve been in this business for 28 years; I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Steve Anderson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s forecast office serving the San Francisco Bay area. Residents of Southern California, particularly from Los Angeles and Ventura counties south to San Diego, are gearing up for what could be a record-setting Santa Ana wind event beginning around midnight Tuesday night and continuing through Thursday. A red flag warning has been hoisted for the metro L.A. area, where winds could gust as high as 80 mph in higher elevations and canyons and reach 70 mph in valley locations...”

Image credit: “Nearly 200,000 evacuees have left their homes in Northern California, some staying in a shelter in Petaluma.” (James Pace-Cornsilk, Whitney Shefte/The Washington Post).

Three Reasons Tornado Threats Warrant Immediate TV Coverage. Wait, even during a Dallas Cowboys football game? Marshall Shepherd explains in a post at Forbes; here’s an excerpt: “…For many people, live streaming and digital alerts by phone are sufficient to make them feel adequately informed. Here comes the difficult part for many of the people that complain about their game or TV show being interrupted for weather coverage. It is not sufficient for everyone. In 2015, Five Thirty Eight asked 938 respondents how they receive wither information. The answers were: phone’s default weather app (23.2%), local TV news (20.6%), a specific weather website or App (19.1%), The Weather Channel (15.2%), Internet Search (14.2%), newspaper (3.5%), radio (3.4%), and newsletter (0.9%). While I have a collegiate minor in math, the calculation is pretty simple. Almost 36% percent of people (over one-third) rely on TV for their weather information...”

Who Has the Advantage in Colder Weather: Pitchers or Hitters? Here’s an excerpt of a timely post at Yahoo News: “…The pitchers always have the advantage in the cold weather because it’s hard for hitters to feel the bat,” said McLaren, who briefly managed the Nationals and Seattle Mariners and has been a coach for the Nationals, Mariners, Toronto Blue Jays, Cincinnati Reds, Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays and Philadelphia Phillies. “I know most good pitchers would like to throw in cold weather because they know the hitters are not loose, they’re stiff, they have a lot of clothes on to stay warm.”And even when the batter gets the ball on the good part of the bat, on real cold days it’s usually thick air and moist and the ball doesn’t travel as far,” McLaren added…”

No Flashing During the World Series Please. has a news flash: “Major League Baseball is cracking down hard on two women who flashed their breasts on TV during Game 5 of the World Series Sunday night in Washington. The women, identified as Julia Rose and Lauren Summer, are banned indefinitely from “all stadiums and facilities,” according to a letter delivered to them by hand and signed by David Thomas, MLB vice president of security and ballpark operations… Rose and Summer were a few rows behind home plate when they raised their shirts and exposed themselves during the seventh inning as Houston Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole was getting ready to pitch.  Cole stepped off the mound, although it is unclear whether he did so because of the women’s antics...”

36 F. high yesterday in the Twin Cities.

51 F. average high on October 30.

54 F. high on October 30, 2018.

October 31, 1991: The Great Halloween Blizzard begins. Trick or Treating was memorable for the few who ventured out. 8.2 inches of snow fell at MSP airport by midnight, with much more to come the following day.

THURSDAY: Partly sunny and chilly. Winds: W 7-12. High: 38

FRIDAY: Gusty with snow flurries. Winds: NW 10-20. Wake-up: 30. High: 39

SATURDAY: More clouds than sun. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 28. High: 38

SUNDAY: Peeks of sun, nighttime rain. Winds: S 5-10. Wake-up: 30. High: 43

MONDAY: Mostly cloudy, few sprinkles or flakes. Winds: NW 10-15. Wake-up: 34. High: 41

TUESDAY: Intervals of sunshine, still chilly. Winds: NW 8-13. Wake-up: 27. High: 38

WEDNESDAY: Dry start, wet snow possible late. Winds: N 5-10. Wake-up: 21. High: 33

Climate Stories….

Warming Fall Nights. Climate Central looks at Halloween extremes for MSP and connects the dots with larger trends: “… In recent analyses we found that average fall temperatures in the United States have increased by 2.5°F over the past half century. While this increase has contributed to many daytime record high temperatures recently, it is actually overnight low temperatures that are warming fastest.This week, we examine this trend by updating our analysis of warming fall nights, this time focusing just on the month of October. Of the 242 cities analyzed, 78% (188) have warmed by more than 1°F in the past half-century, while only 3% (7) have cooled more than 1°F. The West and Gulf Coast have seen the most warming—Reno, Nev., topped the list with 12.3°F of warming, followed by Las Vegas (9.3°F), El Paso, Texas (8.9°F), Panama City, Fla. (7.6°F), and New Orleans (7.1°F)…”

Viewpoint: Responding to Climate Change is Not Partisan, It Is Deeply Christian. An Op-Ed at South Bend Tribune (Indiana) resonated; here’s an excerpt: “…As a result of climate change, the Midwest is projected to experience the greatest average temperature increase of any other region in the United States. According to the American Heart Association, the exposure of pregnant women to extreme heat in the first 8 weeks of pregnancy can lead to increased risk of congenital heart defects in the growing baby. Climate change is putting the health of young Hoosiers at risk. Responding to climate change is not partisan, it is deeply Christian. Evangelical Hoosiers recognize this. That’s why more than 21,000 of them signed a petition last year calling on the Indiana legislature and the governor to support policies that will move the state toward 100% renewable power generation by 2030…”

Rising Sea Levels on Track to Destroy the Homes of 300 Million People by 2050. Note to self. Don’t buy anything next to the ocean. Lakes are still a safer long-term bet. Here’s the intro to a CBS News story: “Rising sea levels are on track to affect about three times more people by 2050 than originally thought. New research suggests that 300 million homes will be affected by coastal flooding in the next 30 years. And that number could rise to 630 million by the year 2100 if carbon emissions don’t decrease. New estimates mean rising seas will cause more damage, cost more money and impact more communities than ever before. According to a study by Climate Central, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, land housing 300 million people will flood annually by 2050. Additionally, high tides may permanently rise above land that is home to 150 million people…”

File image: Jim Cole, AP.

People at Risk From Rising Seas 3x What We Thought: The amount of people who will be impacted by rising sea levels over the next thirty years could more than three times higher than previous estimates, new research shows. A study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications used a more sophisticated method of evaluating elevation data than previous models to look at the number of people currently living on land below projected high-tide levels for 2050 and 2100. The startling new projections show that 300 million people could be affected, most of Vietnam could be underwater by 2050 and cities like Bangkok and Mumbai are at risk of being wiped out by the middle of the century. “These assessments show the potential of climate change to reshape cities, economies, coastlines and entire global regions within our lifetimes,” Climate Central’s Scott Kulp, the lead author of the study, told the Guardian. (New York Times $, APWashington Post $, CNNThe Guardian, CBS, NYMag)

File image: Will Brown, Union of Concerned Scientists.

The False Comfort of Higher Seawalls. How high do want those walls to go? Here’s a clip from a story at The New Republic: “...New flood protection infrastructure can lead to low perceived risk, increased development, and thus amplified impacts when extremes eventually occur. It’s not enough to build a sea wall and call it a day. Investing not just in levies, but also in flood-resistant homes, and moving local infrastructure can make high-risk areas more resilient. But physical infrastructure is only one component. “Rather than just being about a wall or structure that’s in place—something that’s very static, something that can be destroyed, something that has to be rebuilt—we could build a society itself where shocks are part of the system,” Aldrich said. Social ties, it turns out, matter when it comes to disasters...”

File image: Brian Snyder, Reuters.

85% of Cities are Feeling Climate Change – But Nearly Half Aren’t Dealing With It. Here’s the intro to a post at Fast Company: “Last year, the United Nations reported that by 2050, about two-thirds of the global population will be living in cities. As people flock to urban centers, representatives from 620 of the world’s largest cities are using CDP, a nonprofit environmental and financial disclosure platform, to report their experiences so far with the dangers brought by climate change. Unsurprisingly, in 2018, 85% of these cities have already reported experiencing major climate issues, from extreme heat waves to flooding. However, 46% of these cities reported that they’ve taken no action to deal with these problems. According to CDP’s information, published in its new Cities at Risk report (which covers 2018 data), flooding is a regular occurrence for 71% of cities. Meanwhile, 61% of reporting cities have dealt with extreme heat, and 36% have undergone droughts…”

Image credit: NOAA.

Majority of Floridians Call Climate Change a Threat, FAU Poll Finds. Tampa Bay Times reports: “…More than two-thirds of Florida adults consider climate change a threat to future generations and say state and local governments should do more to address it, according to a poll released Monday by Florida Atlantic University. The poll found 68 percent of respondents agreed with the statement that climate change “has them concerned about the well-being of future generations in Florida,” according to a news release from the university. Just 28 percent said state, county and city governments were doing enough to address it. Colin Polsky, director of the FAU Center for Environmental Studies, who led the effort, said the poll showed a surprising lack of a “grand partisan divide” on climate change in Florida, compared to the nation as a whole…”

Photo credit: “A motorist drives down a flooded Meadowlawn Dr. near Kingswood Dr. in St. Petersburg after Tropical Storm Colin dumped heavy rains over the Tampa Bay area Tuesday.” JAMES BORCHUCK, Tampa Bay Times]

Kentucky’s Leaders Are Siding with Coal Industry, and it’s Poorest Residents are Paying a Price. Here’s an excerpt from a Mother Jones post: “…Flash floods have troubled Kentucky for decades. Now, extreme rainstorms are worsening with climate change, increasing the odds of more disasters like the one Bentley’s community endured. For Kentucky’s poorest residents, the people living in flood-prone hollows with surface mines nearby, that means an ever-present threat to both life and hard-won possessions. But the state isn’t on the front lines of the fight against global warming. Its leaders, concerned about the impact on coal, have positioned themselves on the other side of that battle. That’s created a dangerous and expensive disconnect—and not just in Kentucky, a Center for Public Integrity analysis shows...”