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A numbing New Year

Quality of life. Quality of life. Quality of life. This is the time of year where we come up with a). coping mechanisms and b). unique/creative ways to rationalize WHY WE STAY HERE.

* 20.3″ snow so far in December, more than twice our average amount of snow for the month.

* Typical winter: 30 subzero nights in the Twin Cities. We’ll enjoy 3-4 nights of negative numbers starting Friday, lasting through Monday of next week. First weekend of 2010 may be one of the 2-3 coldest of the entire winter.

* No significant snow/ice in sight, “nuisance” snowfall of coating to 1/2″ powder possible today.

Quality of life. Quality of life. Quality of life. This is the time of year where we come up with a). coping mechanisms and b). unique/creative ways to rationalize WHY WE STAY HERE. The snowbirds have already fled, their self-satisfied e-mails and phone calls from Scottsdale and Naples subtle (yet blunt) reminders that they had the “good sense” to get out of Dodge before the coldest cold fronts of winter blew in on harsh northerly winds. Wimps. It’s true that Minnesota winters are cumulative. The longer you’ve been here, the older you become, the tougher it is to grapple with a classic thumb-numbing, battery-draining Minnesota winter. I do believe that in my head and my heart. Somehow it was easier when I was 24 than it is now (51 and counting). Each year gets a little more challenging, in spite of our attempts to get out and EMBRACE WINTER! I tell all my new WeatherNation hires not to cower in your home or apartment – get outside and ski, downhill or cross-country, try your hand at ice fishing (it’s a blast!) My personal, all-time favorite thing to do out in the snow: snowmobiling. I have 2 Polaris sleds and I LOVE getting lost on the trails between Nisswa, Cross Lake and Brainerd. I few times I had to rely on my trusty iPhone to figure out where I was – thank God for GPS (to at least point me in the right direction). Sledding, tobogganing, hockey, ice skating – my Eagle Scout son (Walt) got a badge from the Boy Scouts for camping out in winter weather colder than -50 F (up in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area). Amazing….

Nuisance Snow Potential. Here is the NAM model output for the next 84 hours, hinting at a coating to 1-2″ for southeastern Minnesota, little or snow accumulating snow west of a line from Willmar to Brainerd.

Downward Spiral. Here is the GFS Outlook/”meteogram” for St. Cloud, showing temperatures bottoming out this weekend, nighttime lows in the -10 to -15 F range. At least the sun should be out! We’re heading into the coldest month of the year, and by Friday that won’t be too hard to believe.

As I tell my friends, family (and new hires) if you can plan a sunny, southern getaway from January, maybe another for March, give yourself something warm and toasty to look forward to – that will help get you through these trying, character-building times. Full-spectrum light bulbs that mimic the sun can also help to pull people out of their cold, dark funk. As many as 1 in 10 Minnesotans suffers from SAD, seasonal affective disorder, a lack of sunlight triggers physical/hormonal changes in their bodies that leave them feeling exhausted, depressed, anxious (hungry) and sleepy. Light therapy and medication can work wonders – see your doctor if you think you may have some issues with “SAD”. There’s no reason why you have to live live like that – there are solutions. Look, the days are getting longer now, in a few weeks the amount of daylight will increase by 2 minutes/day. Within 3 weeks temperatures will “bottom out” here in Minnesota – historically our coldest weather arrives the last 2 weeks of January, on average. That’s why the St. Paul Winter Carnival is help during this period, to increase the probability of snow/cold for the outdoor festivities in St. Paul.

Brushed by Snow. The NWS Office in Chanhassen has the right idea: inch or two for southeastern Minnesota, maybe a quick inch for the Twin Cities, probably less than 1/2″ fluff for St. Cloud – just enough to ice up a few roads later today.

A burst of light snow is likely today, coming out ahead of the next reinforcing arctic front that will have us all groping for our favorite parkas, dressing in multiple layers through the first weekend of 2010. By New Year’s Day highs will hold in single digits, with nighttime lows in the -5 to -15 F range, maybe some -20s up north by the weekend. Big Ouch. Some slight moderation is likely next week, but I have a hunch this may be one of the 2 or 3 coldest airmasses of the entire winter season. A quick inch of snow is possible today, especially southeastern Minnesota and southwest Wisconsin – light, fluffy, powdery snow. Remember, when it’s this cold the salt/sand mix used by MnDOT takes much longer to melt snow/ice – there may be some slick spots out there later today. The pattern won’t favor significant snow/ice anytime soon – too much cold air suppressing the storm track well south of Minnesota, meaning a parade of piddly clippers, each one capable of a light, powdery accumulation of under an inch or two. There’s a little truth to that old saying, “too cold to snow”. When it gets this cold (under 10-15 F) the odds of heavy snow diminish; of course it can snow at any temperature below 32 F, below 0 F ice crystals can form spontaneously, falling from a sunny sky!

Nippy New Year’s Eve. Here are the predicted lows for Thursday night/Friday morning, dipping below zero statewide, reaching -10 to -15 F over the Red River Valley.

BTW, this has nothing to do with the weather, but since travelers are still a little freaked by the attempted bombing of the Northwest flight from Amsterdam to Detroit Christmas Day, I wanted to make an observation: Tuesday evening my wife and I returned from Amsterdam on NWA Flight 245 – no problems at all, although we got off late because of additional security at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. How can I say this politely? It was the most invasive search I’ve ever been subject to – ever. Not a mere pat-down, more like a 2 minute GROPE. One that left nothing to the imagination. Amazingly, no passengers seemed to mind (at least that I could see). Everyone was visibly relieved that the security was ratcheted up a few big notches. We’re talking El Al levels of security here. There HAVE been some changes since December 25 – you may not notice them much at MSP, but for people flying into the USA from abroad the changes are tangible (and significant). For what it’s worth, just one traveler’s observation…

Paul’s Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Mostly cloudy with flurries, a period of light snow capable of an inch or two – few slick spots. Winds: NW 5-10. High: 16

Tonight: Flurries give way to clearing skies – colder. Low: 7

New Year’s Eve: More clouds than sun – few passing flakes. High: 14 (low of -4 Friday morning).

New Year’s Day: Numbing with some sunshine. High: 6

Saturday: Coldest day in sight. Blue sky – bordering on bitter. Low: -10. High: 3

Sunday: Sun giving way to increasing clouds, still Nanook! High: 7

Monday: Patchy clouds, not quite as cold. High: 14

Tuesday: Flurries possible, closer to “average” for early January. High: 17