2019 Top 10 Stories: No. 9 — Record cold and snow dominate start and end of 2019

On Jan. 31, Brainerd reached a low of 43 degrees below zero, the lowest temperature since 1996. By the end of the year, Brainerd was setting a new record for rainfall on Dec. 28.

Darren Lent and a coworker from LandWerx LLC clear snow from a roof Thursday, Feb. 14, in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
Darren Lent and a coworker from LandWerx LLC clear snow from a roof Thursday, Feb. 14, in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Frightfully frigid is how the Dispatch described the start to 2019 and as the year wrapped up its last moments, it broke records for rain and warmth.

As New Year’s revelers planned their outings to start 2019, the National Weather Service was sending out reminders to cover all exposed skin with wind chill values in the 23-40 degrees below range, on top of snowfall from back-to-back winter storm warnings. The actual air temperature dropped to 22 degrees below zero into New Year’s Day 2019. Storms left plentiful snowfall in their wake — even causing a greenhouse at Erickson’s Greenhouse to collapse under the snow’s weight. Temperatures plummeted and arctic air moved in to the lakes area.

A few days later, the weather headlines were about freezing drizzle causing school closures and forcing motorists off the road. As January of 2019 was nearly over, dangerously cold air — with wind chills of 67 degrees below zero — was expected to rake the lakes area. The air temperature on Jan. 20, 2019, was expected to top out at 17 degrees below zero with wind chills of 30-40 below. The cold snap prompted schools, businesses, churches and government agencies to close, including the U.S. Postal Service, which suspended delivery Jan. 30, 2019, in Minnesota, western Wisconsin, Iowa and western Illinois. Air temperatures of 36 degrees below zero prompted a third day of school closings. Subzero conditions were unrelenting and lasted more than 70 hours. On Jan. 31, Brainerd reached a low of 43 degrees below zero, the lowest temperature since 1996 and 4 degrees shy of setting a new record for the date.

The deep cold had people trying various options to explore its brutal depths, from watching soap bubbles freeze in the air and roll down the sidewalk to throwing boiling water in the air and capturing it turn to snow in midair on video to be shared on social media. The following warmup predicted a 77-degree difference from the grip of the polar vortex. And early February brought in more snow with Brainerd and Baxter receiving 36.7 inches of snowfall for the season by Feb. 8. That total would rise to 45.7 inches by Feb. 14. As of mid-February, the heavy snowfall put the winter of 2018-19 in the record books as the sixth snowiest on record. Sales of roof rakes were on fire as ice dams caused homeowner headaches. Snow continued as did the cold, even as March arrived. On March 11, 2019, Brainerd ended a 59-day stretch of below-freezing temperatures. It was the third-longest such stretch for Brainerd. The record? Sixty-nine days ending in February of 1936.

A winter with such a strong grip wasn’t going to let go easily. And April 12 brought a storm with the uncommon feature of thundersnow to the lakes area — basically a winter thunderstorm with thunder and lightning, along with snow.


In July, heavy rain brought flash flooding, which submerged vehicles in a parking lot on Dellwood Drive in Baxter and caused a washout on sidewalk adjacent to the Washington Street bridge. The subsequent days of rerouted traffic with law enforcement overseeing jammed intersections in Brainerd confirmed to everyone how often the bridges are crossed on a daily basis.

But by early November, the cold was back. A 14-degree high Nov. 11 set a new record for its chill, overcoming the previous record of 18 degrees set in 1986. The early arctic blast consumed much of the eastern part of the nation, the National Weather Service reported, making it feel like mid-winter. Record, or near-record cold blasted much of the state. Days later, early season anglers were seen walking to their spots on the Crow Wing River west of Pillager.

By December, the typical talk of whether this year would provide a white Christmas never entered the picture. Snow arrived early and stayed the course. As of Dec. 9, the Brainerd area had 2 feet of snow on the ground and a forecast for a high of 3 degrees below zero with a wind chill of 20-30 below. A warm winter storm by month’s end had snow shovelers hauling heavy wet snow through standing water. Brainerd received 1.14 inches of rain Dec. 28, shattering a record of 0.38 inches that stood since Dec. 28, 1958. Warm temperatures had the sound of snowmelt and rain falling overnight, which made for treacherous travel by morning as ice formed and was covered by light snow.

Visit for the rest of the Brainerd Dispatch's 2019 Top 10 list.

Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or . Follow on Twitter at .
Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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