MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — From the southeast, to the northwest, and in between — all types of precipitation fell upon Minnesota Wednesday.
But one element in particular threw the state’s yearly climate calendar for a loop: A tornado watch, then warning in the late afternoon and evening hours southeast of the Twin Cities.
Kenneth Blumenfeld is the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ senior climatologist.
“Often we don’t our get first tornado watch in Minnesota until late April or even May,” Blumenfeld said.
While unusual, Minnesota did just four years ago set the record for the earliest tornado of the season on March 6, 2017, when three of them hit the state. There was a warm stretch preceding that storm, similar to this past week.
“Although they’re not directly related, it’s pretty common that when you have unusual early-season warmth, you also get unusual early-season severe weather,” Blumenfeld said.
But what about a snow storm on one side of the state and a tornado warning on the other? Otter Tail County in northwestern Minnesota was expecting 5-8 inches of snow. Earlier in the day, homeowner Gene Jahnke, a WCCO Weather Watcher, said you could see clear down to this lawn. That changed in the afternoon as snow fell amid balmy temperatures.
“It’s a very, very sloppy wet snow,” Jahnke said.
Having a snowstorm and tornado warning connected as party of the same weather system is possible, but Blumenfeld said it’s rare for that to happen this time of year, and this far north in the United States.
“These are things that we see with some regularity in parts of Kansas,” Blumenfeld said. “You’ll have winter storm conditions in western Kansas, and severe thunderstorms and tornados in the eastern or southern part of the state.”
Having severe weather in early March doesn’t necessarily mean more severe weather is immediately in store. Blumenfeld anticipates these types of events not to pick up with regularity until May or June.
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