When I was working at WCCO-TV co-anchor Amelia Santaniello liked to tease me by asking me, “Paul, can you guarantee this is going to happen?” I would always shake my head no, and explain that the only thing I can guarantee is sunrise and sunset. Everything else is a crap-shoot. This was a running joke that would surface every couple of weeks. Meteorology is a humbling profession. Just about the time you think you have it all figured out, you have a true handle on Minnesota’s fickle, unpredictable weather patterns, Mother Nature (or the Good Lord) would humble me in front of a few hundred thousand viewers and give me a swift kick in the Doppler!
No complaints, I had a blast at 4, and I’m having even more fun working for myself now, focusing on tailoring weather for forward-thinking companies like Conservation Minnesota and MinnPost.com. The Internet is now deconstructing established, legacy media, from newspapers to local TV to magazines – now that choices are almost unlimited and everyone is publishing their own content the old models aren’t working out so well. Weather should be a conversation, an ongoing dialogue, with frequent updates throughout the day as the patterns change and evolve. With media in general we’re going from a one-way flow of information, a speech (ie newspaper headline or a TV newscast) to more of a conversation. Consumers want skin in the game, they want to be more than just passive observers. That’s what has me so excited about trying to reinvent weather for on-line. Here you can have the best of both worlds: streaming video (for the big picture, the narrative, the explanation and traditional weather guy or gal in front of a weather map) PLUS the personalization capabilities of the Internet, the ability for everyone to tailor their own weather experience, personalize it for their tastes and needs. From one-size-fits-all weather to personalized weather – that seems to be the natural evolution, and we’ll be trying some new things in the weeks and months to come. I encourage you to check back several times a day to this site, I’ll try to post updates, new maps, graphics and Doppler images, especially on the big, severe weather days. No need to wait up until 10 pm to get the 7-Day Outlook. Now you can check the latest outlook anytime during the day, on your schedule, on your terms. That’s the power of instant-gratification, weather-at-your-fingertips. End of sermon.
Yesterday was a fresh tonic for the soul with bright sun and a refreshing breeze. Today’s weather will slowly sour, a promising sputter of morning sun fading behind a smear of thickening clouds. An eastbound cool front arrives by mid afternoon, temperatures fall from 70 into the 50s by evening as a light rain falls. By tonight skies will clear and temperatures will tumble, reaching frosty levels by morning. If you have some plants poking up in your garden you want to keep around indefinitely you might want to cover them up (old newspaper will do just fine). A lingering breeze and patchy clouds should prevent a frost within 20-30 miles of the downtowns, but if you live in the outlying suburbs, from Princeton and Elk River to Delano, Monticello and Medina, you may want to err on the side of safety and cover up those new sprouts.
I know, I’m a little frustrated too. This is the time of year when you need 3 season’s worth of clothing stashed away in your closet. Let’s see … heavy jacket or shorts today? Maybe I should wear both and be ready for anything, right? The transition from winter to summer can be … um … awkward, to say the least. Only in Minnesota can you shovel snow off the driveway in the morning and get a sunburn in the afternoon. It seems odd to be talking about s-s-s-snow in mid May, and I want to try and reassure you that flakes probably won’t drift as far south as the Twin Cities. But up north, closer to Tower, Orr, International Falls and the BWCA, a coating to 1″ of slushy snow may fall overnight, enough to whiten the ground by daybreak Saturday.
Speaking of a crystalline coating of white, if skies clear fast enough, and winds subside a bit overnight a frost or freeze is possible across much of central Minnesota by sunrise Saturday, possibly reaching the outlying suburbs of the Twin Cities, from Ham Lake to Elk River and Medina. If you have any plants you’ve grown attached to these last few weeks bring them indoors, cover them up, or write them off. In all probability this will be the LAST frost until late September or early October. And no Amelia, I can’t guarantee it!
Saturday will bring back visions of October with a blustery wind, bloated cumulus clouds racing across the sky as winds gust to 25 mph, temperatures stuck in the 50s (maybe some 40s up north). Aaaah, spring in Minnesota. Not for the faint-of-heart. Plan on dragging out the jackets Saturday, but by Sunday afternoon you can retire your favorite windbreaker as the mercury rises into the 60s under a sun-scrubbed sky. In an effort to balance things out a bit, a more significant warming trend is likely next week. In fact we may see 3-4 days with highs near 80 degrees, a good 10-12 degrees above average for this time of year. It looks like showers and storms will stay to our west (the result of an atmospheric holding pattern much of next week). I don’t see a significant chance of showers and storms until (you guessed it) Saturday of next week. Of course! Dry, warm, sun-filled 80-degree workdays with my face pressed up against the office window, daydreaming about what could be …
I realize next weekend is a major holiday, the unofficial kick-off of the Summer of ’09. What can possibly go wrong? If it’s any consolation I don’t see any fronts stalling, no all-day rains in sight. We may sample a few hours of rain next Saturday, but Sunday should be drier (and a bit cooler). In all honesty it’s a little early to be speculating about Memorial Day, as much as I’d like to crawl out onto that shaky limb. For now get ready for a free Friday watering, a brisk and blustery Saturday, followed by a fine Sunday and a chance to ditch the jackets and go for the shorts by Tuesday of next week. Yes, next week will feel more like early June. We’ll wander outside, embrace the warmth, all of us swept up with a collective case of group-amnesia. It’s a coping mechanism, the only way we can get through a tortured Minnesota spring without losing our minds.
• Some AM sun, enough for 70 by midday, before a cooler front arrives this afternoon.
• Latest (NAM) computer model prints out .28″ of rain this afternoon and evening.
• Potential for frosty suburbs Saturday morning.
• Light coating to 1″ of snow possible for far northern Minnesota tonight, from International Falls to Tower and the BWCA. Duluth may see a coating, with flurries as far south as Bemidji and Grand Rapids.
• Brisk Saturday on tap, highs stuck in the 50s. Light jackets required.
• Sunday still looks like the finer day of the weekend, temperatures top 60 (less wind).
• BIG warming trend next week. 80 possible by Wednesday, daytime highs reach the upper 70s and low 80s through Friday of next week. Showers and T-storms may hold off until Saturday of next week, the 23rd.