On Christmas Day, the gift of a blessed but brief warm-up

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 25, 2013 - 10:50 AM

Below-zero temperatures are expected to return on Sunday.

After enduring one of the coldest Decembers in two decades, Minnesotans unwrapped a winter warm-up Christmas morning.

Although snow is expected to keep falling through the afternoon hours, dropping 2 to 3 new inches, temperatures will rise into the 20s after bottoming out at 13 below in the Twin Cities on Christmas Eve. By Saturday, some of the snow and ice could start melting away as the mercury climbs to 32 degrees.

“I’ve been here 15 years and I’ve never seen a December this cold,” National Weather Service meteorologist Tony Zaleski said Tuesday from his Chanhassen office.

Wednesday’s warmer temperatures are “almost going to feel like a spring break,” he added.

In fact, Christmas Day will feel a lot like last year’s St. Patrick’s Day — but with snow.

Sidewalks, driveways and car windows will need a good scraping before the trek to friends’ and relatives’ places on Christmas morning, but skies and roadways should clear up in time for evening travelers, Zaleski said.

The city of Plymouth issued a snow emergency at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

That light snowfall is well-deserved; the metro area is 6.4 inches below normal for the season so far.

Other than a trace of snow Thursday, no significant snowfall is predicted again for the metro area until New Year’s Eve.

It’s too early to tell, Zaleski said, how much snow will fall on the last day of 2013, but it’s expected to come during the daytime before most New Year’s celebrations.

‘Arctic hammer’ back Sunday

What we’ve missed in snow this season, we’ve confronted in arctic temperatures, and this week’s respite won’t last long.

“Another arctic hammer comes down Sunday,” Zaleski said, adding that temps are expected to dip back down to 13 below zero in the metro.

That reading in Minneapolis on Christmas Eve made it the 11th-coldest Christmas Eve on record.

For perspective, though, imagine Christmas Eve 1872, when temperatures dropped to 31 below zero.

Tuesday’s bitter cold caused black ice to form on freeway ramps and bridges and led to scores of spinouts and crashes, especially as darkness fell and snowfall resumed in the evening hours.

The metro area will continue to see subzero temperatures before the end of 2013, adding to an already chilly month. The average temperature so far this month: 12.8 degrees.

On the other side of the globe, Zaleski said, Siberia — one of the coldest places in the world — is having a warmer winter than Minnesota this year.

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