After several mostly gray days of cold, wind, rain and even snow flurries, Minnesotans stashed their scarves and basked in the sun Thursday, a perfect fall day that topped out in the low 70s.
But the glow won't last. After dubbing Thursday a "Top 10 Weather Day," the National Weather Service (NWS) in Chanhassen declared that snow could return this weekend.
"Seventies are not that crazy this time of the year, but it's going to be back to normal," said NWS meteorologist Chris O'Brien. Meaning, next week we will see more 50-degree days.
Thursday was a perfect start for the annual MEA weekend, when many Minnesota schools are closed so teachers can attend the annual Minnesota Educator Academy conference. The warmth lured many kids and families outside.
Patios and golf courses were packed with happy Minnesotans.
At Hiawatha Golf Club in south Minneapolis, 200 golfers were scheduled to play. Last Thursday, there were only six, said Dan Stoneburg, general manager.
"Today is ideal," he said.
On the other side of the metro, Highland National Golf Course in St. Paul was so busy that it had to turn people away.
In Wayzata, Angel Luna opened up the 6Smith Restaurant's patio for the first time in weeks.
"We usually close it the end of September and we've had rainy days, but today we opened it up … and it's busy," said Luna, one of the restaurant's partners.
A little rain is expected before daybreak on Friday, O'Brien said. It will be cloudy for awhile, then clear up through the day as temperatures reach the low 60s.
Drizzle that arrives after midnight Friday could turn into snow overnight and early Saturday, especially north of Interstate 94 toward Wisconsin.
"But it's a small chance," O'Brien added.
And if it happens, it will be a dusting of less than a half-inch — similar to what we received last Sunday.
Next week looks better. The Weather Service predicts it will be largely sunny early, but also cool — in the low 50s.
U.S. meteorologists on Thursday said that winter is expected to be warmer than normal in this part of the country thanks to a weak El Niño effect. That phenomenon, the natural warming of parts of the central Pacific Ocean, typically in late December, influences weather worldwide.
Mike Halpert, deputy director of the government's Climate Prediction Center, said this year could look similar to the past few winters.
"The country as a whole has been quite mild since 2014-2015," he said.
The greatest chance for warmer-than-normal winter weather is in Alaska, the Pacific Northwest, Montana, northern Wyoming and western North Dakota.
"But it's not like it's 100 percent warmer weather," said O'Brien, the NWS Chanhassen meteorologist. "There's still going to be cold spells and snowstorms, but on average, at the end of winter it will be warmer than normal."