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Ready for Winter?

October 5th, 2016

Are you ready for winter weather?  Frosty, icy, or snowy conditions often make an appearance in mid to late fall in the northern states. This week’s blog theme is connected to being ready for the change of seasons.  Being prepared is one key sign of success for consumers of weather forecasts.

Are you truly ready for winter?   If your windshield scraper is waiting in the car, you are prepared – as Minnesota and Iowa can see frost at any time now.   Southern Minnesota has seen light snowfalls as early as September, and heavy snowfalls in the second half of October have occurred well south into Iowa.  I watched the 7th game of the 1997 World Series with my wife and four young children at a hotel in Winterset, IA after wet snow and wind downed power lines near our rural house.  If you already know where your shovel is stored, or (even better) have tuned your snow blower’s engine – you’ll be prepared in case of early snow!  Happily, the outlook through mid-October over Minnesota and Iowa shows a quick return to pleasant fall warmth

While forecasters can readily foresee early season cold spells coming, I would estimate that at least half of our October snowstorms catch people off guard due to either their timing (snow starts sooner)  or intensity (snow falls harder) versus expectations.  On many such occasions, the line between rain and snow is very sharp.  In situations where temperatures are hovering just above 32 degrees, only in the heavier precipitation areas will the temperature be forced down enough to turn it all over to snow.  Always be cautious – especially in the middle to late autumn — when the forecast calls for hard rain or sleet with temperatures near the freezing mark!  Also be vigilant during wet snowfalls at night when it’s easier for moisture on untreated roads (and especially bridges) to freeze.

The effect of fewer daylight hours is starting to make a big difference.  In the northern tier of the United States, each 24-hour period has already lost 4 hours of daylight since late June, and during this month another hour of daylight will be lost.  Not until November 6th (first Sunday of November) does daylight saving time end.  This fall time change used to occur a week earlier when I was a child – always just in time to maximize the hours of darkness for October 31st trick-or-treating!

Enjoy the remaining days of fine fall weather – confidently prepared for the next “downturn” toward winter.

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