By Heather Brown

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Our Minnesota weather certainly has plenty of us talking. On everything from ice dams, to migrating robins, to snowy tornadoes, Heather Brown has your answers.

So, why are the ice dams so bad this year?

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“There are three big factors,” Patrick Huelman, coordinator of the Cold Climate Housing Program with the University of Minnesota Extension, said.

Huelman says first it depends on the type of house as to whether an ice dam will form. But, given Minnesota’s cold February, it’s far more likely this winter. That’s the second factor.

“And the last one, which is I think is pretty important this year is how much snow is on the roof,” Huelman said.

Ice dams form when heat escapes from the homes to melt to snow on the roof. That water then refreezes when it hits the frigid air.

Pat from Shakopee hears meteorologists talk about averages, so he asked what goes into them?

According to NOAA and the National Weather Service, their current “normals” include data from 1981 through 2010. It’s recalculated every 10 years. In 2021, the data will then be between 1991 and 2020.

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Bill from Inver Grove Heights asks: Can there be a tornado when there’s snow on the ground?

“The answer is technically yes, but the circumstances to create a tornado are pretty hard to achieve in the real world,” WCCO Meteorologist Mike Augustyniak said.

The closest locally we could find: There were patches of snow on the ground before a 2008 January tornado in Wisconsin. In 1984, nine inches of snow fell a few days after a Twin Cities tornado.

Jim from Golden Valley wants to know: Do robins ever change their mind and fly back south?

“Usually not,” Lori Neumann with the MN Department of Natural Resources said with a laugh.

Neumann says over the past decade, some robins have stayed in Minnesota for the winter. But, the majority still head down to the southern border for a least a few months.

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They generally make their way back north in mid-March. They will often stop at the freezing point if they can’t find food, but Neumann says they wouldn’t turn around from the 1,000 mile journey.

Heather Brown