By Jeff Wagner


MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Like most years in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, weather dominates the headlines and creates memorable moments for better or, often, worse.

Sliding into 2020 in true Bold North fashion, a late December blast of freezing rain turned roads into ice rinks, and sprinkled the region with a coating of snow.

But this early winter storm might as well be a dusting compared to the brutal beginning of 2019.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources created a list of the top five weather events of the year, and topping the list was the polar vortex in late January. The DNR states it included the coldest air measured in Minnesota since 1996. Wind chills in several parts of the Twin Cities went deeper than minus-50 degree Fahrenheit. Many school districts closed for up to four days in a row.

Unsurprisingly, Minnesotans still braved the skin-blistering winds to enjoy outdoor activities like it was any winter day.

What followed was the snowiest February in state history, including an end-of-the-month blizzard that stranded drivers on Interstate 35 in southern Minnesota. Dozens were rescued by the Minnesota National Guard, and took shelter at an armory in Owatonna.

High winds covered up plowed roads on Lake Mille Lacs, extending a weekend ice fishing trip for many who had to sleep an extra night in their fish house.

“There was like five-foot drifts up to the hood of my truck, and we were buried,” a fisherman said.

When we finally thawed out, the flood gates opened. Minnesota experienced one of its wettest years ever causing rivers to overflow.

The Twin Cities broke its record for annual precipitation at more than 43 inches, according to the DNR. But the historic rain and snow also helped raise a struggling White Bear Lake to healthy levels not seen since 2003.

Summer brought with it thunderous storm, with tornados destroying trees and damaging homes all the way into Wisconsin in July. And a scorching July 19 saw heat indexes soar well past 100 degrees, before ominous skies pelted drivers with frightening hail north of the metro.

An honorable mention from the DNR’s top five list included the spring storm and blizzard from April 10 to April 12. It dropped nearly 10 inches of snow in the Twin Cities — the fifth largest April snowfall on record.

Jeff Wagner

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