Really?!?!: April snow, cold breaks records in Brainerd area
More snow fell in the Brainerd lakes area than expected—putting shovels, snowblowers and snowplows back to work—after yet another snowstorm swept across Minnesota and Wisconsin this weekend.
While the Twin Cities and the southern portion of the state were pounded with heavy snow and blizzard conditions beginning Saturday, April 14, it appeared the lakes area might not be hit by the storm. National Weather Service meteorologist intern Bill Mokry said more snow fell than originally predicted in the Brainerd region as the system moved a little south and picked up more moisture near Hudson Bay.
About 7 p.m. Saturday, flakes began to fall in Brainerd and continued throughout the night into Sunday, with expectations it would continue into early Monday morning. With 2.5 inches of snow observed Saturday in Brainerd, the date overtook the record highest snowfall for April 14 in the Brainerd area. Also making its way into the record books Saturday was the temperature. At 31 degrees, Saturday's high temperature was the lowest on record for that date, according to online weather data maintained by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. The record high temperature for April 14 is 86 degrees, recorded in 2003—difficult to conjure during the endurance test this spring has put Minnesotans through.
The NWS in Duluth reported snowfall rates of over 1 inch per hour for Sunday, April 15, in northwest Wisconsin, but not as intense in northeast Minnesota.
Snow was heavier south of Brainerd than north. As of 1 p.m. Sunday, 10.4 inches of snow was reported 8 miles northeast of Little Falls; 6.6 inches of snow in Fort Ripley as of noon Sunday; and 3.3 inches of snow at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport as of 7 a.m. Sunday. One inch was reported at 1 p.m. Sunday, 3 miles northeast of Nisswa. By 4 p.m. Sunday, an observer 2 miles north of Brainerd reported 5.5 inches of fresh snowfall.
Sunday afternoon, Mokry said snow was expected to fall throughout Sunday night and would begin to taper off before the Monday morning commute.
Road conditions remained snow-covered across parts of northeast Minnesota and much of northwest Wisconsin. Through Sunday night, an additional 5 to 10 inches of snow was expected over portions of northeast Minnesota, with 10 to 15 inches of snow over northwest Wisconsin. Another 1-1.5 inches was expected in the Brainerd area, the NWS stated.
Blowing snow made road conditions difficult for travel. The Crow Wing County Sheriff's Office reported minor crashes Sunday—three in Brainerd, two in Baxter and another on Highway 25—but no one was transported to the hospital. Crow Wing County reported its snowplows would continue plowing efforts on the county roadway system at 3 a.m. Monday.
On its Twitter account, the Minnesota State Patrol reported its troopers recorded 558 crashes statewide between midnight Friday and 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Of those, 64 involved injuries, two of which were serious injuries and one of which was fatal. One of those crashes with serious injuries occurred in the Brainerd district, the state patrol reported, although additional details were unavailable Sunday. The state patrol also responded to 1,058 vehicles off the road or spun out, and 20 jackknifed semitrailers throughout the state.
Beginning about 9 p.m. Friday, winds picked up with bone-chilling gusts recorded at the Brainerd airport. Gusts ranged between 22-36 mph throughout the night, until the highest gust of 39 mph was recorded between 1-2 p.m. Saturday. Winds remained gusty throughout the weekend, although Mokry said the wind would die down a bit Monday. Winds could reach up to 25 mph with a forecast temperature high near 40 degrees Monday.
Although not official until end of day Sunday, the previous Brainerd area snowfall record of 3.5 inches for April 15, set in 1961, seemed on its way out the door in favor of a 2018 record. The NWS reported if the 5.5-inch reported snowfall holds as Sunday's total, it would be the fifth-highest single-day April snowfall in the Brainerd area since record keeping began. The highest single-day total was 8 inches on April 7, 1956.
Average snowfall for the entire month of April in the Brainerd area is 3.4 inches. With the unofficial total Sunday, the NWS said this April would move into third place all time for highest snowfalls, trailing 13.5 inches in 1950 and 11 inches in 1961. But, there's still two weeks left of April this year.
However, there is hope for spring—Friday's high was projected to reach the lower 50s in Brainerd, with more seasonal temperatures expected throughout the coming weekend.
Mokry said NWS is gearing up for their "summer convention season" and encourages people to get prepared for upcoming severe weather common during the coming months—such as thunderstorms, flooding and tornadoes. People should prepare an emergency kit and be prepared to keep themselves and their families safe.
The NWS is hosting a free SKYWARN program class from 6-8 p.m. Monday, April 16, at the Crow Wing County Land Services Building, 322 Laurel St., that is open to the public. People who attend will learn how to identify and report severe weather and can be a volunteer in the community who may help identify and report severe weather including large hail, damaging winds and tornadoes.
Community Editor Chelsey Perkins contributed to this report.
Winter weather driving tips
• Slow down and drive to the weather and road conditions. The posted speed limit is reduced when conditions become poor. Duty to drive with due care is the basic speed law.
• Always wear a seat belt as it could help save a life and avoid or reduce injuries in the event of a crash.
• Provide for plenty of travel time.
• Increase stopping distance between vehicles.
• Turn on headlights.
• Don't use cruise control on slippery roadways.
• Don't travel if conditions are poor, if it can be avoided.
• Make sure all vehicle windows are clear from snow and ice.
• Have four winter-type tires with good tread depth.
• Eliminate distractions while driving.
• Make sure child restraints are secured tightly. It is recommended to use bulky clothes and blankets on top of the child restraint harness, not beneath, to ensure harness restraints fit properly.
• Use extra precautions when driving around snowplows by keeping at least five car-lengths behind plows.
• If skidding, remain calm, ease foot off the gas, and drivers should turn the steering wheel in the direction they want the front of the vehicle to go.
• If vehicle has an anti-lock braking system, apply a steady firm pressure to the brake pedal. Never pump ABS brakes.
• Clear snow and ice from vehicle windows, hood, headlights, brake lights and directional signals.
• Equip vehicles with a scraper/brush, small shovel, jumper cables, tow chain and a bag of sand or cat litter for tire traction. Blankets, heavy boots, warm clothing and flashlights are also important, as are storing high-energy foods such as chocolate or energy bars.
• Be sure cellphones are charged for long trips, and inform family of destination plans and schedule.
• If stranded, stay in the vehicle.
• Parents of teen drivers should make sure new motorists experience snow and ice driving in a safe environment, such as an empty parking lot.
• Check 511mn.org or call 511, for updated road conditions.
Source: Minnesota State Patrol