It didn't just feel cold this winter, it was bitter

Winter isn't giving up yet with a cold start to the weekend, but take heart - a serious warmup is on the way.

A weather graph shows how often the winter temps were below normal.
The number of times the blue bars dip below the normal temperature range adds to what people who bundled up through this winter season knew in their bones, it was a cold season.
Courtesy / National Weather Service Duluth

BRAINERD — If the frequency of cold days, nights of wind chill and piles of snow made the winter feel extra frigid this season, the numbers are there to back it up.

It’s been above freezing just twice in March, reaching 36 degrees on March 1 and reaching 33 degrees for one hour Tuesday. Other than that, March successfully imitated January. Friday, March 11, reached a high of 10 degrees for a few afternoon hours. The high by this time of year is typically 37 degrees with an overnight low of 15 degrees.

The National Weather Service Friday issued a wind chill advisory for central and northern Minnesota, northwestern Wisconsin and much of North Dakota with a winter weather advisory for the Red River Valley and the western edge of Minnesota as blowing snow reduced visibility.

The forecast calls for an overnight low of 19 below Friday into Saturday with blustery conditions and winds gusting as 25 mph. And there is a 50% chance for fresh snow Saturday, mainly after 5 p.m. but more of a dusting than accumulating snowfall. Saturday may bring additional light snow and potential for freezing rain as this winter season refuses to leave. More snow, perhaps 1-2 inches, is possible Sunday.

Looking at the winter season and how many times the thermometer dipped below average, the National Weather Service in Duluth created a graph of Brainerd area temperatures.


“The average temperature was 10.1 degrees, which was 4.2 degrees below normal,” said Dean Melde, lead meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth, in an email.

The 2021 climate summary for the Brainerd area, using data collected at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport, included:

  • 49 degrees — the warmest day on Dec. 1. The record for the warmest winter day was 61 degrees on Dec. 6, 1939.
  • 35 below was the coldest on Jan. 7. The record coldest temperature is a bone-chilling 54 degrees below on Feb. 2, 1996. 
  • 21.9 degrees was the average maximum temperature.
  • 10.1 degrees was the mean temperature. 
  • 1.7 below was the average minimum temperature.
  • 35 mph — the highest wind speed. 
  • 8.5 mph — the average wind speed. 
  • 54 mph — the highest wind gust.
A winter climate summary graphic
Courtesy / National Weather Service Duluth

As cold as it’s been, it could have been worse. The record for cold temperatures Friday was 35 below set in 1948. The record coldest daytime high of 5 degrees was set in 2009, not that far from Friday’s high. It might be kinder not to mention the record high of 60 degrees by March 11 was posted in 2016.

But for those for whom winter has outstayed its welcome, there is hope. And it is arriving next week. By Sunday, highs may move above freezing. And by Wednesday, daytime highs may reach 45 degrees, which could mean it is almost time to bring out the lawn chair and enjoy Minnesota’s perfect season — early spring before the bugs wake up in earnest. The week ahead may reach highs in the lower 40s for most of the week ahead. With lows in the mid- to upper 20s at night, the slow spring melt should begin.

Related Topics: WEATHER
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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