Between December 10th and 12th, 2010, a paralyzing snow fell over much of southern Minnesota. By the conclusion of the event, it would have historic impacts - it was the largest snowfall in nearly 20 years for the Twin Cities since the Halloween Blizzard of 1991, the largest snowstorm to affect the Twin Cities in December, and the fifth largest snowfall from any one storm on record in the metro. The Minnesota Climatology Working Group named it the third biggest weather event of 2010. It also ranked third on my personal list of top weather events for the year.
A very potent winter storm developed over South Dakota and Nebraska on Friday, December 10th. It was an unusual storm in that it was a Pacific type storm system, which are not known to be high snowfall producers due to the limited amount of moisture available. The moisture transport for this system was along an “atmospheric river”. Here is an animated loop of the storm system as it moved across the Upper Midwest:
Precipitation began as freezing rain, with sleet across far southern Minnesota on the evening of the 10th. Eventually enough cold air wrapped into the system to cause all precipitation to change over to snow before midnight. Snow continued into the day on Saturday, December 11th. Radar loop of the precipitation as it moved through the area during the duration of the event:
The storm system strengthened as it moved into Iowa through the 11th, and brought the highest snow accumulations during the morning and afternoon hours. The deepened low pressure area created a tight pressure gradient in the atmosphere to generate strong winds and blizzard-like conditions across southern Minnesota, including the southern parts of the Twin Cities metro (Carver, Scott, and Dakota Counties).
Visibilities to one-quarter mile or less was reported at MSP airport during a seven hour span on December 11th. This resulted in the airport being shut down for four hours. The poor visibilities were captured by a fixed camera I set up at my weather desk in Shakopee.
The storm system then moved east Saturday night, causing the snow to come to an end across southeast Minnesota by the morning of December 12th. The weight of all the snow collapsed the roof of the Metrodome in Minneapolis during the early morning hours.
The highest concentration of snow occurred across east central and southeast Minnesota. A total of 17.1 inches of snow fell officially in the Twin Cities at Twin Cities International Airport during the 10th (0.8 inch) and 11th (16.3 inches). Locally, I measured 21.5 inches of snow from the storm on the front sidewalk. It was a challenging snow to measure with winds from 25 to 40 MPH causing snow drifts. Here was the view from outside my front door just before 1 PM on the 11th:
Our neighbors on the east side of the St. Croix, Eau Claire, Wisconsin, picked up 22 inches of snow in one day, setting a new record. The largest Minnesota snow total was 23 inches recorded in the southeastern city of Winona. Here are snowfall totals across the state from the National Weather Service in Chanhassen:
Here is a closer look at snow amounts in the Twin Cities, and reports from the seven-county area listed by inches, city, and county:
- 21.0, OAKDALE, WASHINGTON
- 20.0, MAPLEWOOD, RAMSEY
- 18.0, (3 SSW) BURNSVILLE, DAKOTA
- 18.0, (2 W) PRIOR LAKE, SCOTT
- 17.5, (3 NW) MINNEAPOLIS, HENNEPIN
- 17.4, LAKEVILLE, DAKOTA
- 17.2, WOODBURY, WASHINGTON
- 17.2, (1 W) CARVER, CARVER
- 17.1, MINNEAPOLIS, HENNEPIN (MSP AIRPORT)
- 16.5, SAVAGE, SCOTT
- 16.3, HASTINGS, DAKOTA
- 16.1, BLOOMINGTON, HENNEPIN
- 15.5, CHANHASSEN, CARVER (NWS OFFICE)
- 15.2, ST LOUIS PARK, HENNEPIN
- 14.7, WACONIA, CARVER
- 14.5, (3 SSW) WHITE BEAR LAKE, RAMSEY
- 13.5, (1 ESE) CHASKA, CARVER
- 13.0, STILLWATER, WASHINGTON
- 11.5, ANDOVER, ANOKA
- 10.8, CHAMPLIN, HENNEPIN
This was a memorable storm for several reasons. It may also be considered this generation’s 1991 Halloween Blizzard for those who may not have been old enough to recall that event, or were not living in the area.
Additional information on this event:
- Minnesota Climatology Working Group
- National Weather Service – Twin Cities (PDF format)
- National Weather Service – Duluth
- National Weather Service – La Crosse, WI