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Snow dusts lakes area, heaviest snowfall lands farther north

Scraping the fresh snow off a rafter Thursday, Oct. 11, Dave Peterson with Diversified Construction works on a new house building project in Kinder Corners north of Brainerd. Rain turned into snow overnight in central Minnesota. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch 1 / 5
Cato and Eva Clough of Brainerd are excited for the first snowfall, which means their first snowballs. Submitted Photo2 / 5
Snow, illuminated by vehicle headlights, falls on marigolds in a garden Wednesday, Oct. 10, in Brainerd. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch3 / 5
Fresh snow covers leaves and branches Thursday, Oct. 11, north of Brainerd as snow arrives a little early in the Brainerd lakes area. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch 4 / 5
A maple tree illuminated by a street light collects snow as it falls Thursday, Oct. 11, in Baxter. Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch5 / 5

It could have been worse.

The storm dusted flowers, created a white crust on grass and left snow-covered cars late Wednesday night, Oct. 10, in the lakes area, and dropped nearly a foot of snow in extreme northwestern Minnesota.

The sun attempted an appearance Thursday afternoon, but the brief filtered light was quickly overcome by heavier clouds and no further attempts were witnessed. If this fall feels especially gloomy, the Minnesota State Climatology Office confirmed it's more than just a feeling. "Gloomy skies have dominated early October 2018, bringing with them cold and clammy conditions," the climatology office reported. "The lack of sunshine has held down daily maximum temperatures in particular, with highs in Minnesota averaging 7-13 degrees below normal during this unusually cloudy spell.

"From Sept. 25 to Oct. 9, average high temperatures were the lowest on record at International Falls, and were among the five lowest on record at Rochester, St. Cloud, Duluth, and the Twin Cities."

The clouds, while keeping the daytime highs from climbing, also kept the overnight lows from dropping. Overnight lows averaged 1-3 degrees above normal.

"How unusual is this cloudy weather? The period from the very end of September to early October in fact is more likely to see clear weather conditions than any other time of year. By contrast, 12 of the 15 days from Sept. 25 to Oct. 9, 2018, were cloudy, and none of them were clear. Solar radiation records from the U of M St. Paul Campus show that the period from Sept. 29 to Oct. 9, 2018, was the least sunny on record, back to 1963."

October of 2009 is the record-holder for gloom in the metro area. But there is hope for November to get all those yard projects done and holiday lights displays installed before December cold makes it really feel like winter.

"Fortunately, a cold and cloudy October does not mean that November that follows will be the same. November 2009 was the third warmest on record and wound up being 10 degrees above normal, with eight clear days and only nine cloudy days," the climatology office reported.

A look back at September

September was slightly colder than normal with a mean high temperature of 68.6 degrees compared to 69.1 degrees. Total precipitation for the month was 2.59 inches compared to the norm of 3.18 inches.

The high temperature of 89 degrees for the month was recorded Sept. 16. After a week of temperatures above normal in September that culminated in the nearly 90-degree high mid-month, temperatures were markedly cooler, dropping into the normal range and dipping below it through the end of September.

The greatest 24-hour rainfall brought .77 inches on Sept. 2.

Temperature outlook

For Brainerd, the weather service reported the normal highs begin the month of October in the low 60s and cools to the upper 40s by the end of the month. Normal lows begin the month in the low 40s and cool to the low 30s by the end of the month. Normal precipitation for October is 2.18 inches. Normal snowfall for October is 0.4 inches.

Looking back at a 30-year history of the Brainerd lakes area, the normal monthly high for October is 55.3 degrees with a normal low of nearly 36 degrees.

The warmest October on record dates back to 1963. The coldest was in 1925 with a monthly average temperature of 32.6 degrees. The highest temperature observed was 88 degrees on Oct. 2, 1992. The lowest was 20 degrees on Oct. 27-28 in 1925.

The temperature outlook for the month is, not surprisingly, for colder than normal with more precipitation—which has been true to form so far this month.

100th anniversary of devastating wildfires

Wednesday also marked a major anniversary. The National Weather Service in Duluth noted it's been 100 years since "a spark from a passing train, the parched landscape and dry gusty winds combined to produce Minnesota's worst wildfire outbreak in state history."

On Oct.10, 1918, that passing train's spark ignited a fire near Cloquet. It smoldered for a few days. At the time, northeast Minnesota was having its "driest season in 48 years," according to the U.S. Weather Bureau's official in charge, H. W. Richardson. Numerous fires were across northeastern Minnesota at the time.

"So when gusty and dry southwest winds developed, the fire grew and spread rapidly," the weather service noted, adding the peak wind measured by the Weather Bureau was 76 mph at 5:52 p.m. with a five-minute wind speed of 65 mph.

"News of the oncoming fire did not reach Duluth until late afternoon on the 12th when news of the fire devouring the small town of Brookston arrived. The fire entered Duluth at the Woodland neighborhood at about 6 p.m.

"In total, 1,000 people lost their lives in the fire. The hardest hit areas were Moose Lake, Cloquet and Kettle River. Thirty-eight communities were destroyed, 250,000 acres were burned and $73 million (over a billion in today's economy) in property damage was suffered."

FACTBOX—Snowfall totals

Area snowfall totals after Wednesday night's harbinger of winter:

• Merrifield—.3 inches.

• Brainerd—.5 inches.

• Fort Ripley—.8 inches.

• Crosslake—.8 inches.

• Crosby—1 inch.

• McGregor—3 inches.