Mid-December looked a lot like April in the Twin Cities on Sunday.
The unseasonably warm weather meant lighter jackets and lighter moods for Bob and Shelley Lynch as they strolled through northeast Minneapolis with their dogs.
They would have walked Hank and Ren on Sunday afternoon even in the cold, they said, but the springlike temperatures put a bounce in their step. “It just makes you happier,” Shelley Lynch said.
Most people said the weather was a welcome respite from winter’s chilly first weeks, but a few said they hoped snow and freezing weather would resume soon.
Cross-country skiers said that they’re getting by skiing on artificial snow — but that it just isn’t the same as skiing on the real thing.
“Skiers that want to get out and enjoy skiing in nature will be confined to doing laps around the artificial snow courses for a while longer,” said Grant Halverson, co-president of the University of Minnesota Nordic ski team. “[It’s] nothing like skiing a long out-and-back in the middle of the wilderness, but it’s better than nothing.”
The lack of snow can be challenging for high school teams, said Blake Slette, co-president of the U’s Nordic ski team. They have to budget additional time and money to get to trails supplemented with artificial snow.
“The trend of warmer winters has had a noticeable impact over the past few years and has resulted in shorter ski seasons, race cancellations (including the 2017 American Birkebeiner), and higher trail pass fees to cover the cost of snow-making,” he said in an e-mail.
Highs in the 30s to mid-40s are expected to last through Thursday, according to the National Weather Service (NWS), with lows ranging from 15 to 30 degrees.
And Saturday broke records: International Falls hit 47, Hibbing came in at 44 and Brainerd climbed to 48.
While the springlike temperatures may feel unusual, a December thaw “is more common than some would think,” said Mike Griesinger, a NWS meteorologist.
“It’s not unheard of, but it’s also something we don’t do a lot of,” Griesinger said. “About 15 percent of the time we get this warm.”
On Sunday at noon, the temperature was 46 degrees at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Ordinarily, the high would be closer to 27 degrees, with a low of 12, Griesinger said.
The record high for Dec. 16 came in 1939, when the mercury hit 58 degrees, he said. But there have been 22 other times that the Twin Cities has topped 40 degrees on this date since the NWS started keeping records in 1872.
Next weekend and into the week of Christmas, “We’ll be back down to where we should be, but not crazy cold,” he said.
Griesinger said that while some winter activities seemed to have taken a hit, others weren’t affected too much.
It’s somewhat early for ice fishing, he said, but the lakes do have ice, and at ski slopes that create their own flakes, the weather is still cold enough to keep it on the ground, he said. But “if they require snow from Mother Nature, then obviously this is not working out,” he said.
Pedestrians, however, seemed cheerful and motivated to walk Sunday throughout Minneapolis without snow or ice beneath their feet.
“Our paved regional trails ... are clear and very busy with people enjoying the warm weather on foot and on bikes,” said Dawn Sommers, a Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board spokeswoman.
With the exception of the Wells Fargo refrigerated ice skating rink in Loring Park, the city’s other skating rinks aren’t scheduled to open for another week, Sommers said. Staff will “have to wait and see” how the weather affects their opening, she said.
Ski trails at Theodore Wirth Park, which has snow-making equipment, are open, Sommers said. The park will also host the U’s Nordic ski team’s daily practices when they begin.
Some walkers in Minneapolis said they planned to do some shopping.
Jolene de Souza, supervisor at Patina’s Uptown location, noticed a slight uptick in customers Sunday, which may have been weather-related.
“We are a gift store, and this is kind of a big season and time right now,” De Souza said. “But in general, there was a pretty consistent flow of people all day today.”
Tank Simon walked his two dogs, Xander and Diesel, toward the pet-supply store. He said he has been taking them for longer jaunts now because it’s not so cold.
“The weather is awesome,” Simon said, adding that warm weather and less snow mean less salt on sidewalks to irritate the dogs’ paws.
Purple-clad crowds streamed through downtown Minneapolis on Sunday afternoon, and many Vikings fans wore smiles related to the team’s win. The weather was also a plus, some said. Stacey Kettenacker was leaving the game with her friend Arthur Roseman. “We drank our pregame cocktails outside,” she said when asked about the benefits of the warm weather.
Even the meteorologists at the NWS office in Chanhassen took advantage, grilling hot dogs and brats Sunday afternoon.
The NWS has a couple of grills out back, said meteorologist Joe Calderone.
“[It was] that kind of a day,” he said. “We always have a good time here.”
At least one person wasn’t thrilled by the balmy day.
Author Charles Baxter recalled that when he was a boy, he was told that Santa couldn’t come if the winter was too warm.
“I don’t like it — I like a robust winter,” said Baxter as he walked to Surdyk’s in northeast Minneapolis. “I want snow.”