As good as it gets

Talk about surreal. The flood gripping the Red River Valley is so big it can be clearly seen from outer space (check out the story/photo on “Paul’s Links”). It looks like Lake Pepin got plopped down just north of Fargo. At the same time there’s a growing risk of brushfires, especially west of St. Cloud and Willmar Wednesday afternoon. The combination of bright sun, gusty winds and lip-chapping low relative humidity will mean a significant risk of fire, and once these blazes get started a wind gusting to 30 mph. will make them tough to snuff out. So there you have it: the same chunk of real estate threatened by flood and fire. Good grief, thank God the ground underfoot is stable. I always remind my California friends that, yes, it gets cold here, but at least we don’t have to worry about the ground turning to Jello! And when my Florida buddies get all high and mighty, bragging about postcard-perfect weather yearround, I gently remind them of the truth: Minnesota sees storms, but at least our storms DON’T HAVE NAMES! That usually shuts them up for a while (but not long enough). I find myself having to defend my decision to make Minnesota my permanent home more often than I should. After all, we live in fly-over land. Most Americans have NO IDEA how amazing this place is. Maybe it’s better that way. Because if the truth ever did get out we’d be L.A. with lakes. Traffic is bad enough, let’s keep days like today a secret, eh?

Yes, today was Exhibit A, a wondrous reminder of how amazing spring in Minnesota can be. So many years we go from being ankle-deep in slush to 80 sticky degrees and mosquitoes big enough to show up on Doppler radar. It’s great that we’re having a REAL SPRING this time around, and as I wrote previously, the lack of rain for most of the Red River Valley in recent days has spared folks up there a catastrophic breach of the levees. The latest forecast from NWS flood forecasters (Chanhassen office) is predicting a second crest near 37′ by Saturday, which would be 2-3 feet lower than the first crest on March 28. They’re not out of the woods yet, but I’m cautiously optimistic that all those homes that have stayed dry so far will weather the next surge of muddy water surging down the Red River.

Not enough Outdoor-Quality-Time today? No worries. You’ll get another chance to get lost coming back from work Wednesday. It should be nearly as sunny, a couple degrees warmer, with more of a breeze (blowing from the southeast at 10-20 mph). The latest computer run keeps significant moisture to our west through Friday, most towns in central MN probably won’t see rain until Saturday, when the fire threat will finally ease. I don’t think it’ll be enough rain to complicate the flood threat for Fargo and Moorhead, probably less than .25″ or so. Saturday appears to be the wettest day as a southbound cold front teams up with a southern storm pumping moisture into Minnesota. The result may be several hours of rain, enough that you may want to consider a clever Plan B (indoors) for Saturday. Sunday looks marginally better as the storm finally pinwheels east, away from Minnesota. Morning puddles give way to afternoon brightening, even clearing with a better than even chance of seeing the sun set Sunday evening.

We’re picking up nearly 2 minutes of additional daylight every single day, and that rising, strengthening sun is packing more of a wallop. 70 degrees is possible later this week, and even though cooler air will follow the storm early next week I don’t think we have to worry about accumulating snow (hopefully not for another 8-9 months, give or take).

Enjoy the next few days, but do me a big favor. Keep it to yourself. The best kept secret in America should probably stay that way for the time being…

P.S. Thanks for checking out the new & improved weather column. I firmly believe there are new (and ultimately better) ways to tell the weather story, but it has to evolve into more of a conversation than a speech. That means integrating social media, interactivity, and the power to personalize maps for specific regions and towns. I hope you’ll watch some of the videos on the Conservation Minnesota site, we’ve invested a lot of money and time to build 3 new HD weather studios in Excelsior; we’re about to hire our 7th on-air meteorologist: bilingual, born in Panama with a meteorology degree from Florida State. I have been blessed with a great team of meteorologists, developers, sales gurus and assorted techs, all of them dreamers and doers…anxious to reinvent weather and make it more colorful, useful and relevant. By the way, I’m really not bitter about what happened to me a little more than a year ago. Life is too short to be spent looking back and fuming — it was the kick in the pants I needed to get serious about a few ideas I’ve been dreaming about in recent years. WeatherNation is one of them, the other is Singular Logic, a technology and patent company trying to personalize the advertising we all have to muddle through on a daily basis. I don’t pretend to have the answer key, but we’re asking a lot of questions out here on Lake Minnetonka. With your help (and participation) we’ll come up with a next generation weather service, one that integrates with Twitter, Facebook and whatever comes next!

Weather Headlines

• Some of the best weather of the year on tap for this week, mid 60s again Wednesday through Friday, a shot at 70 by the end of the week.

• Shower risk for Friday has diminished — most towns may not see rain until Saturday — Sunday morning (rainfall amounts should stay under .25″).

• Cooling off early next week, highs hold in the 40s to near 50 Monday.

• Slow warming trend next week, but probably not as balmy as this week.

• Good news for the flood-ravaged Red River Valley. River expected to crest near 37′ by Saturday, according to the NWS. That would be 2-3 feet BELOW record crest on March 28.

• NWS may issue FIRE WARNING for western Minnesota for Wednesday afternoon as winds increase. Combination of sun + tinder-dry relative humidity + strong/gusty winds will enhance the risk of brushfires until rain arrives this weekend.

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Comments (1)

  1. Submitted by Marty Broan on 04/15/2009 - 03:50 pm.

    Great to read your column again, Paul! Conservation Minnesota is very proud to partner with you in re-inventing how people can get their weather.

    I look forward to hearing you on Don Shelby’s WCCO radio show at 4 this afternoon.

    Though temps in the 60’s are a sure sign of spring, I always flip the seasonal calendar when I see loons on Lake of the Isles, on their migratory path up north. I saw a pair busily feeding today while riding my bike to work. Since few, if any loons make their summer homes on our urban lakes, it’s a brief treat every year and a true harbinger of things to come.

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