More sun than thunder

Beads of sweat are streaming down my (expanding) forehead. I think my heart is palpitating, spasms of fear pulsating through every nerve ending. I fear I’m a little cross-eyed from staring at one too many weather maps. No, it’s not my mother, the debilitating recession/depression, or the fact that my 25th wedding anniversary is coming up, and the best I can do is a hotel in downtown Minneapolis (it’s a nice hotel, in my defense!) What’s the gift for 25 wondrous years? Corduroy? Tin? Olive oil? I should Google that, or if I want to impress the geeks in my life, Bing it. Where was I. Oh yes, the source of my growing angst. It’s the weather, of course. I take this stuff seriously. When I “bust” a forecast it still bugs me. Not so much the taunts, threats and dirty looks (mostly from disappointed family members). I do realize that (some) people do plan their days based on the information I provide, and when I flub the forecast, and people get rained on, which tends to annoy those people. They e-mail me, Facebook me, Tweet me. I feel like a shunned Amish man. Not cool.

So here’s the deal. The biggest holiday of summer, arguably the BIGGEST outdoor holiday of the entire year is upon us. What will the weather be, Paul? Rain, shine, hail, locust, pestilence? THE PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW!! The pressure is on, my blood pressure is elevated, and I’m about to give it my best shot. No, the weather will not be perfect. There is some rain in the holiday weekend forecast. That said, most of the 3-day weekend will be dry, with temperatures close to where they should be on the 4th of July.

A few headlines and vague generalities:

* Best chance of rain/thunder: Friday night, again late Sunday.

* Best day: probably Saturday (after a potentially wet start over the southern third of Minnesota).

* Warmest day: Sunday, highs reach the low 80s.

* Fireworks weather: odds still favor a dry sky, clear to partly cloudy conditions, temperatures close to 70-72 by 10 pm. A stray shower is still possible over far southern counties of Minnesota.

* Winds: Today and Saturday, the 4th: North, 5-10, higher gusts in the afternoon. Sunday: West at 10-15.

If it’s any consolation the heaviest rains/T-storms will pass off to our south, across Iowa. A fairly impressive “short wave” (wrinkle of cold air embedded in a west/northwest jet stream flow) will streak across the Dakotas, pushing the heaviest/steadiest rains across southwestern Minnesota tonight and first thing Saturday. The Twin Cities will be on the northern fringe of any significant rain (computers print out nearly .50″ of rain tonight). But St. Cloud only sees .05-.10″, if that, and the Brainerd/Alexandria Lakes area will probably stay dry. In general the farther north you go, the better the odds of NOT seeing any rain late tonight and early Saturday.

After a wet, potentially “puddly” start Saturday morning, sun should be on the increase midday and afternoon hours Saturday, and odds still favor dry weather over most of the state for Saturday evening fireworks. The only possible exception: far southeastern Minnesota, near Rochester, Winona and Preston, where a few residual showers/storms may linger. Not sure you’ll need a light jacket when the rockets red glare booms overhead Saturday around 10 pm. Temperatures will be in the upper 60s to low 70s, skies partly cloudy in the Twin Cities, but probably most clear from St. Cloud and Alexandria north to Brainerd, Cross Lake and Bemidji.

Sunday will start out sunny and warm, temperatures poking above 80 across much of the state by mid afternoon. But another, weaker disturbance may set off a few late-day T-storms, most likely over eastern counties of Minnesota around the dinner hour, maybe an hour or two of rain. I want to stress – again – that MOST of the holiday weekend looks dry, lukewarm and pleasant, with fairly low humidity levels for early July. It won’t be sticky, muggy, or uncomfortable. And a recent lack of rain (check out the drought monitor) might mean fewer mosquitoes than usual for fireworks festivities. O.K. I’m dreaming, but I just wanted to see what that looked like on paper. Take the industrial-strength bug repellent and hope for the best.

Next week looks interesting, a stalled front nearby keeping us potentially showery (and thundery) part of Monday and Tuesday. By midweek a warm front should surge northward across the state, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see 90 degrees close to home by Thursday or Friday. The timing is tricky (nothing new there) but one thing is becoming clear: it will look and feel more like typical July weather next week. I hate to jinx the forecast for the following weekend, but after a potentially soggy, stormy Friday, the long (long) range GFS model is hinting at sunshine much of Saturday and Sunday (July 11-12), possibly even nicer than the upcoming holiday weekend will be. We’ve seen worse 4th of July weekends, weatherwise, trust me. Many years we’ve experienced severe weather, drenching rains, steamy humidity levels, the works! I’m happy for people spending time up at their cabins this weekend – they should see some of the nicest weather this weekend, the brunt of any showers/storms sliding off 50-100 miles to their south. The weather on Pelican Lake, the Whitefish Chain and Gull Lake will be significantly nicer than the weather on Minnetonka and White Bear, although even in the Twin Cities most of Saturday and Sunday will be dry, and warm enough for a dip. Have a great 4th – remember what we’re celebrating. I know I will. My youngest son returns home from the Naval Academy this evening. Nice to have the entire family together in one place again. I hope you (and yours) have a memorable weekend full of laughter, food (bag the diet, no one cares) and sun screen. Yes, I’m predicting a rash of sunburns this weekend. Don’t be the doofus limping into work Monday with a bright red glow. Hey, at this point I’m just happy (and relieved) that we’ll get to USE sunscreen on a holiday!

Drought Monitor, courtesy of the National Weather Service. I know – rain on a holiday isn’t something you want to think about, in spite of the recent mantra, “we NEED the rain.” Yes we do, but preferably NOT on the 4th of July. Moderate drought conditions have expanded in the last week, showing up near Granite Falls and most of east central and southeastern MN, severe drought conditions lowering lake levels and browning fields east of St. Paul.

4-Panel Outlook, courtesy of Unysis, showing a strong disturbance brushing the southern third of Minnesota with showers/storms tonight and early Saturday (most of the rain should be over by 8-9 am or so). Sunday starts out dry, but a few more late-day storms may pop up.

WRF/NAM Outlook for 7 am Saturday morning. Keep in mind this displays “accumulated rain for the 6 hours prior to 7 am, between 1 am and 7 am Saturday, to be precise. Although the heaviest rain passes south across Iowa, a few bands of showers/possible thunder graze St. Cloud and the Twin Cities. The farther south you live, the better the odds of bumping into a little rain around the breakfast hour Saturday. That said, skies should quickly clear out during the day Saturday.

WRF/NAM (probably the most accurate weather model) for 7 pm Saturday evening, the 4th. Again, this is for the preceding 6 hours, 1 pm to 7 pm Saturday afternoon/evening, showing mainly dry weather statewide. That’s why odds favor sunshine during the afternoon of the 4th, and a dry sky for evening fireworks. Fingers and eyes crossed…

Paul’s Outlook

Today: Warm sun, clouds increase late. Winds: N/NW 5-15. High: 78

Tonight: A period of rain likely (potential for up to .50″, heaviest rains south metro). Low: 56

4th of July: Wet start, then plenty of warm sun by midday and afternoon. High: 79. Winds: N 5-10, higher gusts in the afternoon.

Saturday evening fireworks: CPartly cloudy, probably dry. 10 pm temperature: 72

Sunday: Warm sun much of the day, breezy. A late-day T-storm can’t be ruled out. Winds: W/NW 10-20. High: 83

Monday: Partly sunny, isolated T-shower (most of us won’t see rain). High: 85

Tuesday: Mix of clouds and sun, showers/storms should stay north/east of town. High: 86

Wednesday: Hot sun, neighbors whine about the humidity. High: near 90

Thursday: Hazy sun, hot and sticky – slight chance of PM thunder. High: 92

Friday: Unsettled, a bit cooler. Growing chance of showers/heavy T-storms. High: 83

Saturday (July 11): Generous sun, probably dry. High: 84

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