Statewide Category Archive: Weather
(Photo courtesy of Judy Markl, Minnesota DNR)
This week's strong southerly winds and mild temperatures pushed thousands of Canada, White-fronted and Snow geese into Minnesota.
On Sunday and Monday in the southwest part of the state, the honking of northbound geese could be heard occasionally throughout the night. About 5,000 geese arrived this week at the Talcott Lake Wildlife Management Area near Worthington, said Judy Markl, an assistant wildlife manager for the state Department of Natural Resources.
About 100 miles north of Talcott, some 75,000 geese are at the Lac qui Parle management area. Although some arrived this week, most have spent the entire winter there. Usually a blizzard blows them south, but this year's mild temperatures allowed the geese to stay through the coldest stretches.
By Tim Nelson, Minnesota Public Radio News
A semi-trailer headed eastbound on Interstate 94 drove off the road onto a pond near Monticello this morning, then broke through the thin ice and sank.
State Patrol spokesman Eric Roeske said that the driver, 35-year-old John Nettifee, of Anoka, escaped with minor injuries after crossing the interstate median and driving through a break in oncoming traffic.
The accident happened just after 6 a.m. this morning, on the western end of the Minnesota Department of Transportation's test facility on I-94.
Roeske said arrangements are under way to get the truck winched out of the water.
More photos from the Minnesota State Patrol:
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) -- A rare winter golf season in South Dakota is continuing for residents of Sioux Falls.
KSFY television reports that the city's Elmwood Golf Course will remain open through Tuesday.
Course officials say temperatures reaching into the 40s to 50s through Tuesday led to the move. A warm dry winter with no snow cover has been making it possible for residents to hit the links this winter.
Elmwood's opening even drew some recent publicity in Canada. The Winnipeg Free Press ran a short item earlier this month noting the course is open, and it's only an eight hour drive from the Manitoba capital.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
By DAVE KOLPACK, Associated Press
FARGO, N.D. (AP) -- When a powerful blizzard ripped through North Dakota last winter, hundreds of drivers were stranded as white-out conditions shuttered interstates spanning the state. Snow whipped up by wind marred the lines between pavement and grassy drop-offs, leaving some scared motorists unsure what to do.
Two local software developers figured they could help.
Bob Bertsch, an employee with the North Dakota State University Extension Service, and Jake Joraanstad, an NDSU computer engineering major, had just finished developing an app to help residents during floods when the blizzard hit in March, convincing them to shift their attention to winter disasters.
Winter Survival Kit was born. The free program, available for iPhones and Android smartphones, is both a primer to help motorists prepare for winter driving and a beacon when things go badly.
It can pinpoint a motorist's location, call 911, notify friends and family, and monitor how long the gas will hold out. The app also gives potentially life-saving alerts when users tap a big red button on its simple home screen that reads, "I'm Stranded!" Among the advice: stay with your vehicle and keep the tailpipe clear of snow, since a backup can cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
"It's our sincere hope that no one ever has to use it," said Bertsch, an NDSU Extension Service web technology specialist who led the team that developed the app. "But if one person does have to use it and it keeps them in their car or keeps them from succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning, then it is definitely worth the time and effort that was spent on the app."
The app also helps drivers prepare for bad weather by inputting phone and policy numbers for insurance and roadside assistance, and designated emergency contacts. And it gives guidance on putting together a physical survival kit to keep in vehicles in case of emergencies.
"Any tools developed which arm people with information that will help keep them safe is of value," North Dakota Emergency Services spokeswoman Cecily Fong said.
The app does have limitations. Joraanstad said some especially rural areas of the country _ particularly in the Great Plains _ have shoddy cellphone coverage that could impede some features such as GPS. At that point the app would tell users that their location couldn't be pinpointed and instruct them to call 911.
Still, the app has emergency numbers handy, allowing users to send text messages for help. Text messages often can be sent by weaker signals than are needed for clear phone calls. And the app would give emergency advice on braving the elements _ even telling users how to use parts of a vehicle to keep warm.
The Midwest hasn't seen much heavy snowfall in the last few months, so the app's developers haven't heard of any success _ or horror _ stories yet. But they're convinced that when the time comes, their app will help.
"This app can literally save someone's life. We take great pride in that," said Joraanstad, the 22-year-old chief operating officer for Myriad Devices, a startup company in NDSU's research and technology park that produced the app.
Bertsch, Joraanstad and two colleagues who teach at NDSU have become experts in disaster apps. Last year they developed a program to help residents deal with flooding that has overwhelmed North Dakota in the last few years. The H2O app provides news feeds, river levels, road closure maps and other information.
Winter Survival Kit, which works in the U.S. and Canada, joins several apps from other developers that were designed to help smartphone users in a bind, such as Help I Crashed My Car, Emergency Radio, iMapWeather Radio, iTriage, Close Call and pMonitor. As of this week, there didn't appear to be other winter survival-specific apps in either iTunes' or Android's app stores.
"I think we hit a particular niche," Bertsch said.
About 12,000 people downloaded the app in the first week it was released, and Joraanstad said that at last check, there were another 3,000 downloads. The early returns have been mostly favorable. Out of 16 user reviews on the Android website, 13 gave 5-star ratings. "Practical ... yet simple," reads one review. It had a 4-plus average rating among Apple iPhone users.
People posting lower ratings reported trouble with the app crashing. Joraanstad said those glitches are being addressed as they arise with updates.
The app is being promoted by Texas, where it can be downloaded directly from the Texas Extension Disaster Education Network website. In an unusual climate swap, Texas saw snow this winter before much of the rest of the country.
"With the amount of snow and ice during winter in the Panhandle and North Texas, plus the possibility of unusual cold weather occurrences elsewhere in the state, we felt it would be helpful to many Texans to make this app accessible," said Joyce Cavanagh, Texas extension service spokeswoman.
"People here aren't used to driving in that kind of weather. It gives some peace of mind while traveling," she said.
Cavanagh also said she felt more at ease knowing that many students traveling for the holidays had downloaded the app before hitting the roads.
College student Jessica Rush said she could have used such an app in March. The 21-year-old and a friend were traveling in separate cars in North Dakota when the fast-moving storm left her so blinded that she was on the highway's left shoulder when she thought she was driving over the warning bumps on the right. She figured she was about a half-mile from her friend's car.
"I called my dad and told him I was going to get out and walk to her car and he said, 'Do not leave your car. You don't know where she is,'" recalled Rush, who had cellphone coverage where she was stuck.
Rush stayed in her 2000 Oldsmobile Alero for four nerve-racking hours until she was rescued by a truck driver, and she came away with a new appreciation for the dangers of winter driving.
"When your parents tell you not to go somewhere you should probably listen," Rush said. "I guess this app is the next best thing."
Associated Press writer Amber Hunt contributed to this report from Sioux Falls, S.D.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
Record-breaking warmth continues to
blanket the Dakotas.
The National Weather Service says high temperature records were
broken or tied Wednesday in the North Dakota cities of Bismarck,
Williston, Jamestown and Fargo, and the South Dakota cities of
Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Yankton, Aberdeen and Huron, along with
some smaller communities.
Most of the record temps were in the 50s. Rapid City hit 62
More record warmth is expected, and the temperature records
aren't the only ones in jeopardy. The latest date for freeze-up on
Lake Sakakawea on the Missouri River in North Dakota is Jan. 16, in
2000. Linda Phelps with the Army Corps of Engineers tells The
Bismarck Tribune that it will take some "cold, cold weather" to
keep that record from falling.
(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
The first long range flood outlook for the Red River shows little chance a scene like this one from a Moorhead neighborhood in 2009 will be seen in 2012.
For Fargo Moorhead the outlook gives a 10% chance the Red River will reach a 32.5 foot stage. That's about 8 feet lower than than the record 40.8 foot level in 2009.
At a 32 foot river stage, the river would have little effect on Fargo or Moorhead.
As the National Weather Service points out, this is a very long range probabilistic outlook. The NWS started issuing these early outlooks as flooding became an annual event over the past few years.
Fargo Moorhead has experienced major flooding three years in a row, and five of the top ten floods in history happened in the past decade.
Many factors can still influence spring flooding: How much snow falls through the rest of the winter, how much water is in that snow, how quickly the snow melts in the spring and how much rain falls during that spring melt.
The positive factors at this point are that there is little or no snow on the ground across the Red River Valley and the extremely dry fall gave saturated soils a chance to dry out.
Compare the snow water equivalent map from this week with the same time last year. In 2010 much of the Red River Valley already had 2-4 inches of water in the snow on the ground. This year of course,there's nothing on the map, or on the ground.
There's still a long way to go before 2012 can be declared flood free, but this early prediction is an encouraging sign for those who live near the banks of the Red River.
North Dakota State University extension is offering a mobile app for drivers who get stranded in a winter storm.
The Winter Survival Kit app is designed to determine your exact location, notify law enforcement, calculate how long your car will run on the gas in your tank, and alert you when it's time to clear the tailpipe to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
The app was created by Myriad Devices, a company based in the NDSU Research and Technology Park incubator in Fargo with funding from the USDA.
The Winter Survival Kit app also has tips on what to pack for winter survival gear and advice on winter driving skills. But does the app tell you when to stay off the road?
NDSU says the app is available free for Android and Apple devices.
"We need rain" says Marc Rasche as he rakes hay in a roadside ditch in southwest Minnesota. There's a blue sky overhead and no storm clouds in sight. The hay was cut two days ago. Thanks to the weather, the grass has already dried enough to be baled. Making hay is the one thing the mini-drought in the southern part of the state has been good for. But nearby crop fields show the stress of too little rain. Some of the corn is already turning brown.
Rasche figures he's seen about a half inch of rain in the last month. Rainfall since mid-July in Waseca and Winnebago is a little over three inches less than average. In Worthington, the deficit is about two inches. The quick dry down followed a wet spring. In June, there was standing water in some of the same ditches Rasche's taking hay from now. Some farmers, though, are lucky. They can make their own rain, like this irrigator.
Marc Rasche says the corn and soybean crop can still benefit from rain. If it stays dry, he says yields will suffer even more than they already have.
Posted at 2:38 PM on July 13, 2011
by Mark Steil
Filed under: Weather
(Photo courtesy of the Tyler Tribute)
Officials with the Federal Emergency Management Agency are scheduled to begin storm damage assessment tomorrow in a 10-county area of of southern and central Minnesota.
Federal officials will try to determine cleanup and reconstruction costs to see if the region qualifies for federal assistance.
On July 1, a thunderstorm tore down power lines and wind turbines, flattened crops, destroyed farm structures and damaged about two-thirds of the houses in the town of Tyler in Lincoln County. An EF 2 tornado also struck the town.
Tyler City Administrator Dan Tolsma said about 10 houses suffered major damage.
"They're more than likely going to be a total loss," he said.
The city's cleanup bill will be about $2 million. Tolsma said he doesn't know if any state funds are available to help pay the bill because he can't get any answers due to the government shutdown. He hopes FEMA officials can provide some answers.
In addition to the 10 counties, FEMA will also assess damage on the Mille Lacs Band of Ojibwe Reservation.
Blue tarps blanketed roofs and sheets of plywood covered broken windows in neighborhoods and communities around Minnesota in 2010, a record year for tornadoes in the state.
In all, 104 tornadoes touched ground in Minnesota in 2010.
Now, officials with the National Weather Service in La Crosse are looking for a few good volunteers to help spot some of that severe weather when it hits this year.
The weather service recently released the Severe Weather Spotter Training Schedule for 2011.
Training sessions will be held across starting March 10. Minnesota locations include Austin, Rochester, St. Charles and Stewartville. Wisconsin training will take place in Fort McCoy, Arcadia, Medford and La Crosse. In Iowa, sessions will be held in Monona, Fayette and Osage.
The weather service relies on volunteer storm spotters to report severe weather, including tornadoes and flooding.
Spotters are typically volunteer fire fighters, police officers and amateur radio operators, but individual spotters can still participate.
The service says spotters are vital in reporting severe weather, especially in spring and summer months when activity picks up.
In the past 11 years, Minnesota has seen an average 48 tornadoes per year. The top two tornado years on record in the past decade.
By David Cazares
The questions have come just about every week, especially the past few months.
Why did you leave Miami for Minnesota? What were you thinking?!?
The short and simple answer has to do with the economy. After a long career working for newspapers, I was laid off. Managers of a chain mired in bankruptcy eliminated my job.
More than a year ago, I decided to move north for a new start at Minnesota Public Radio. No regrets.
Born and raised in Indiana, I'm comfortable in the Midwest, a region with the four distinct seasons and hills that I didn't see in the bottom of the country. I also like my new home's sense of order, its cleanliness and friendly people.
Still, the move has been quite an adjustment.
I do miss the tropical weather. But mostly, I long for the loud, boisterous, vibrant and colorful combination of accents, people -- and characters -- in South Florida; its ethnic and cultural enclaves and diverse neighborhoods; relatives, neighbors and friends from Jamaica, Brazil, Colombia, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Haiti and Israel. And plenty of transplanted New Yorkers.
I moved to South Florida in the early 1990s to be as close to the Caribbean as possible. The place quickly grew on me. It's where I met my wife, and where my children were born. It's a place where you can read, hear and watch the news in Spanish, Haitian Creole and Portuguese, where a buck will buy a good cup of strong and sweet Cuban coffee.
My favorite is the cortadito -- a shot of espresso and a shot of slightly frothy milk. Just try ordering that from a coffee franchise in Minnesota.
The trip north reconnected me with my Midwest roots and reintroduced me to that "other" America, a largely homogenous region where life is quieter and the tone much more civil.
But as much as I appreciate the politeness of my new neighbors, I can't forget that there are other ways to interact. I'm used to the at times in-your-face nature of interactions in Miami, where people can be quick to say what they think, even if they regret it later.
I miss living in a place where collectively minorities are the majority, where ethnic and racial politics, even when they spark division, are growing pains in a nation that truly is changing. Such conflict proves that sharing is hard, but so necessary -- a precursor, perhaps, to what will happen across the United States. The discourse can be a mess, but it's a lovely mess.
That's not to say I haven't found diversity here. In the Twin Cities and beyond, I've happily encountered many people from other cultures and countries -- even New York. But they're largely scattered.
You'll find during times of crisis, such as last year's earthquake in Haiti, which inspired a multicultural relief effort at the Cedar Cultural Center in Minneapolis.
I've met Somalis at events in Mankato and Rochester and am fortunate to work with some cool people at the Latino Communications Network, home to La Prensa and La Invasora 1400-AM.
An aficionado of Afro-Cuban culture, I was pleased to find a very good Cuban Film Festival in Minneapolis, and a great dancer from the island in Rene Thompson. One of my favorite things is a night at the Dakota, the jazz club that Miami can only dream about, with its world-class pianist, Nachito Herrera.
I've also discovered winter fun: tubing, sledding and ice skating. I learned how to operate a snow blower, remembered to turn into the skid when my car slides on ice, and can finally use a fireplace again.
There are days when I think I'm definitely in the right place, when I remind myself that I don't miss the traffic, the urban congestion and the rat race of working in hectic South Florida. Trust me, living there and visiting are two different things.
After a year, I'm only now beginning to push aside my other home for a new one in Minnesota. But I'm not sure I'll ever embrace winter as "real Minnesotans" do.
When does spring arrive?
David Cazares is the print and Statewide Blog editor for Minnesota Today
The orange colored state snow plow trucks have been out in force this winter and that's adding up to a big bill for clearing roads.
Minnesota Department of Transportation officials say the heavy snow already has pushed road-clearing costs to a record pace.
"Through January 18th we've actually spent $48 million," said Steven Lund, the DOT's state maintenance engineer.
That's $3 million ahead of the same date in 2009, which so far is the DOT's most expensive snow plowing year. Crews are putting in long hours.
"It has been a tough winter on them," Lund said. "There have been some stretches where they've been out there on a daily basis for weeks on end."
So far, the DOT's supply of salt has held up well. Lund said there's no concern that the department will run out before winter ends.
He says one positive factor is that snow plows receive more help from the sun in February than in past months. As the sun moves higher into the sky the strength of its heating power increases, to the point where it can melt significant amounts of snow on roadways even if the air temperature is below freezing.
Cold air was a reality for every Minnesotan this week and headlines from around the state reflected that. The unforgiving temperatures claimed the life of one woman in Minneapolis and stretched the limits of homeless shelters and charitable organizations. One unique twist on the cold weather narrative came from Winona Daily News reporter Patrick Anderson who chose to focus on the winter fly fishing season.
Two teenage girls in Rochester went missing from Mayo High School. Details are sketchy surrounding their disappearance, but authorities said the two girls are friends. Little else is being shared with the public. KAAL quoted Rochester Police Department Captain Brian Winters as saying, "We cannot talk about the welfare of these children in an open environment with news media present. They are even at potentially more risk when we do that." Fears have spread through Rochester's Somali community that the girls' disappearance may be linked to sex trafficking. Members from the community are reaching out and asking Greater Rochester for help.
Proposals to cut the state budget are underway in St. Paul. Republican lawmakers in the House voted a proposal out of committee that would cut the state's workforce by 15 percent. Republican lawmakers have also taken the lead on funding cuts to municipalities by reducing to Local Government Aid payments. In general, city governments through out the state expressed frustration with the proposed cuts since they are already seeing additional strain on their budgets from an unexpectedly high amount of snowfall this winter.
Michael Olson is online editor for Minnesota Today. His weekly news roundups will appear on Friday.
Some 30 families affected by the devastating June 17 tornado in Wadena will gather tonight for a Camp Noah reunion at the Wadena Elementary School.
Camp Noah is a program sponsored by Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota. It's a week-long therapeutic day camp that focuses on helping children recover emotionally after a natural disaster. Seventy Wadena area children participated in Camp Noah in August.
The reunion event tonight will include a dinner and small group sessions for children and adults.
The Lutheran Social Service Disaster Response office in Wadena reports that 92 families have been served with case management services.
With outside donations of about $175,000, 88 families have received help with unmet needs in areas of loss not covered by insurance. Some of those needs include furniture, beds, car repairs, sheet rock, shingles and windows.
Lutheran Social Service case manager Wendy Molstad says the organization continues to accept donations for Wadena tornado victims. Molstad says there are still unmet needs totaling an estimated $900,000.
Not that you need any more proof that tornadoes can do amazing things, but here's an example from the June 17 tornado that hit Armstrong near Albert Lea.
A staffer for Minnesota Homeland Security and Emergency Management took the picture last week and posted it on the agency's Facebook page. The photographer explains:
It was lifted off of its foundation, moved about 20 feet, rotated 90 degrees and set down. They have nicknamed it the "Oz House" in Freeborn County.
The home is owned by Bob and Laural Hanson. The Albert Lea Tribune reports they were not home when the tornado hit.
When the storm was approaching, they decided to join others at the Main Street Grill. In Alden, people told them homes had been leveled.
When they returned, they found their home, on gravel 680th Avenue just south of Freeborn County Road 46's junction with County 12, completely removed from its foundation, almost like in the "Wizard of Oz."
What's it take to pick up a house as if it were a piece from a Monopoly board game? An EF4 tornado with winds of 175 mph will do it. Officials have confirmed that an EF4 tornado hit Freeborn County that day. It was the first EF4 twister to hit the area since 1967.
The tornadoes last week caused a lot of trouble for farmers -- especially those with livestock.
The high winds blew down many barns, setting animals loose in the countryside. Those farmers are struggling now to find a way to care for the animals until they can rebuild.
The state agriculture department says it can help. Any farmer with a problem can call a toll-free help line, 1-877-898-MFAN (Minnesota Farmer Assistance Network).
The department also has a Disaster Recovery Loan Program, which can help farmers pay for a number of storm problems, including debris removal.
A press release provides more details.
Photos from the spate of tornadoes that struck Minnesota on June 17 keep pouring in. Even a week after the storms, the images remain gripping and amazing.
Minnesota's office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management posted a recent batch on its Facebook page.
There is not much detail on the location of each photo. Here's how the agency described the group of photos:
Governor Tim Pawlenty directed HSEM to request preliminary damage assessments to determine the scope of damage caused by last week's tornadoes in Minnesota. Here are a few photos from the field... Location: Wadena; Ellendale and Albert Lea areas
Here are some of the 82 photos in the agency's latest batch. The full set is on Facebook.
Storm chasers were on the case Thursday when tornadoes ravaged Minnesota. Their videos show scary twisters in action.
Description: What a day as we chased in north-central MN and observed 4 large tornadoes, 3 of them being wedges. Unfortunately, one of these massive tornadoes went through the town of Wadena as we were observing just east of town. Major damage resulted from this tornado but, fortunately, no deaths. Certainly this is a day that I will never forget, growing up and living all of my life in MN and never seeing such a large tornadic event in this state until now.
Description: Storm chaser Dominator at TornadoVideos.net intercepts violent wedge tornado southwest of Wadena, Minnesota, measuring incredible vertical winds with the radar, and launching parachute probes into the tornado with the cannon. We deployed in the strongest eastern side of the wedge, and the 150+ mph winds ripped off the room anemometer, sand-blasted the paint, and caused us to slide across the road with the hydraulics deployed.
From: The Storm Report.
Destruction near Wadena
Description: Possibly EF5 Tornado Damage in Minnesota on June 17th 2010 during a massive upper midwest tornado outbreak.
Kiester and Albert Lea
Description: Jeffrey Gonzales shoots multiple tornadoes in southern Minnesota. From SevereStudios.
Description: Storm Chaser Michael Stanga of TheWxPage chased the incredible tornado outbreak in Minnesota on June 17, 2010, documenting this tornado near the town of Monticello.
Description: Android Footage showing a tornado only yards from a car full of people that got caught under a funnel cloud touching down next to them, very small but violent tornado. (Note - Explicit language)
Description: Brandon Sullivan shot this amazing tornado footage near the town of Bricelyn, MN which is about twenty miles west of Albert Lea, MN on Interstate 90.
Description: One of the worst tornado days in Minnesota history occurred.
This is one amazing video of a tornado with the sunset in the background.
Near Grand Forks, N.D.
Description (from Al in the comments section): It's not quite Minnesota, but my brother shot this one in North Dakota, just west of the Grand Forks airport.