First Weekend of Spring...
Saturday's sunrise was quite stunning. A brief display of pinks and purples with a faint sun pillar. However, folks in far western and southern Minnesota were getting dumped on by another sloppy March snow storm. Keep in mind that March is the 3rd snowiest month for the Twin Cities with an average of 10.3". The Twin Cities has only had 5.1" so far this month, which is a few inches below average. The extended forecast does suggest a couple more chances of wintry precipitation, so we could make up for the deficit yet.  
Snowy Saturday Morning in Southern MN
While the calendar officially says spring, it didn't look like it early Saturday morning across parts of South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa. The picture below from NWS Meteorologist Rod Donavon shows a very wintry scene out of Plainfield, IA! WOW - that certainly is a pile of snow!
Heavy Snow Amounts
Here were some of the heaviest snowfall reports from Friday into Saturday. Note how close the heavy snow was to the Twin Cities! Pretty crazy how sharp that cutoff was and those who got snow, got a big pile of it!


2017 Ice Out Dates
Take a look at ice out dates across the state from last year. Note the darker red markers, which indicated that ice out occurred on many lakes in central and southern MN before March 18th! As of March 24th, we have no ice outs anywhere across the state this year. 

Hummingbird Migration
A number of springtime birds are starting to show up on bird feeders near you, but the Ruby-throated Hummingbird is still quite several weeks out from making there way to the Upper Midwest. According to Journey North, there have been reports as far north as Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina. 
Amazing Hummingbird Migration
Did you know that hummingbirds migrate from Central America? Amazingly, they make there way to the Yucatan Peninsula in February and then cross the Gulf of Mexico! Unreal!!
"Ruby-throats do not travel in flocks during hummingbird migration. Instead, each bird follows its own instincts on appropriate departure times and routes. Scientists believe that each hummingbird begins its migration in response to environmental triggers. One trigger is the changing level and angle of sunlight. Another trigger is believed to be a drop in available natural food. As these signals continue to activate, the hummingbird makes its preparations and eventually departs. On their northward trip, most have reached Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula by February. In this lush jungle, they begin to feast on insects as they prepare for one of the toughest migrations for any bird. Each year, thousands of Ruby-throated Hummingbirds fly over the open water of the Gulf of Mexico rather than follow the longer shoreline route. These brave little birds will fly non-stop up to 500 miles to reach U.S. shores. It takes approximately 18-22 hours to complete this amazing solitary flight. Some hummingbirds aren’t strong enough, though, as many oil riggers and fishing boat crews can attest. Every year, exhausted Ruby-throated Hummingbirds take temporary refuge on offshore oil rigs and boats floating in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico. These birds rest a while before bravely launching back into their flight across the open water."
Spring Leaf Index

According to the USA National Phenology Network, the spring leaf index shows spring creeping north. The red colors indicate that spring leaves have been emerging earlier than normal, while the blue indicates that spring leaves have emerged later than normal. It was a later than normal start to the season across the Gulf Coast States, but across the Mid-Atlantic and Ohio Valley, things are off to an earlier start. Keep in mind that the average bloom date for lilacs in the Twin Cities is around May 10th, so we still have a ways to go, but it's coming!

Garden 2018 Update
Local gardeners are well on their way to starting their 2018 garden! Indoor seed starting continues as we head into the end of March and if you started any seeds back in February or early march, you're probably starting to see a lot of progress in your indoor greenhouses. The geraniums, Pentunias and Peppers that I started on the 13th of March have sprouted and are doing quite well. Tomato seeds were started on Friday and should start seeing some germinations within the next few days!

Starting Your Garden Indoors
The image below shows the suggested dates when and certain vegetable and flower seeds can be started indoors. As you can see, there are many seeds that can already be started, while a few others can wait until April. Such a fun time of the year!! Grow baby grow!!
Snow Depth
Here's the latest modeled snow depth across the state, which shows our most recent snow event that dropped nearly 12" across parts of southern Minnesota. Snow depth across southeastern Minnesota and around the Twin Cities is pretty scarce. As of Saturday, there was just a trace of snow on the ground at the MSP Airport.


Extended Temperature Forecast

The extended forecast through the end of March and into early April suggests a fairly mild week ahead, especially midweek when temps could warm to near 50F! However, it appears that we'll quickly cool down into the 30s at the end of the month and into the first few days of April. Keep in mind that the average high at the end of March is 49F, so this will be quite a bit below normal.

Weather Outlook Ahead
Sunday will be a quiet day across the region, but a storm system will quickly develop as we head into the early week time frame. This storm looks fairly impressive with areas of heavy rain and snow possible through Tuesday. 
Rain/Snow Chance
The storm system that arrives early this week will bring up to 0.50" of liquid to parts of the region. Keep in mind that some of this could fall in the form of wet heavy snow, but is still a bit uncertain where and how much could fall. Stay tuned.

Great Lakes Ice Coverage

According to NOAA's GLERL, the Great Lakes were 32.1% covered in ice as of March 23rd. Interestingly only 6.6% of the Great Lakes were covered at this time last year.

Lake Superior Ice Coverage
Here's a look at the ice coverage across Lake Superior and as of March 24th, NOAA's GLERL, said that 69.6% of Lake Superior was covered. Interestingly, at last time last year only 3.8% of the lake was covered in ice! Quite a difference from this year to last.   
Visible Satellite
The visible satellite from Friday, March 23rd revealed a wintry landscape across the Great Lakes Region and Upper Mississippi Valley. Much of the white you see is either cloud cover or snow on the ground.  Big chunks of ice can still be seen floating around the Great Lakes and some of the lakes in Minnesota, including Upper/Lower Red Lake and Lake of the Woods.
Snow Depth 2018
The snow depth map across the country for March 24th suggests that 26.2% of the country is covered in snow, mainly across the northern half of the nation. At this time last year, 14.5% of the nation was covered in snow. As of March 24th, the Twin Cities officially had Trace of snow on the ground at the MSP Airport, but at this time last year, there was no snow on the ground. Note also that last year at this time, the Sierra Nevada Range in California had a significantly greater snow pack than what is there now.
Snow Depth 2017
At this time last year, 14.5% of the nation was covered in snow.  

2018 Tornadoes So Far...

According to NOAA's SPC, there have been 98 preliminary tornaoes so far this year (March 23rd), which is more than what we had at this time in the last couple of years. Interestingly, there were 491 tornadoes at this time in 2008; that year ended with 2,194 tornadoes, which is nearly 800 more than the short-term 2005-2015 average. 

Average Tornadoes in March By State
Here's the average number of tornadoes during the month of March by state. Texas sees the most with 11, but interestingly, Minnesota averages 1 tornado in March!


3-7 Day Hazard Forecast

1.) Heavy rain shifting east from the southern Great Plains to the lower and middle Mississippi Valley, Ohio Valley, and Tennessee Valley, Mon-Thu, Mar 26-29.
2.) Severe weather for parts of Oklahoma and Texas, Mon-Tue, Mar 26-27.

3.) High winds for the southern high Plains and parts of the Southwest, Mon, Mar 26.
4.) Heavy snow for parts of the central and southern Rockies, Mon-Tue, Mar 26-27.
5.) Much below-normal temperatures for the northern Great Plains, Fri, Mar 30.
6.) A high risk of much below-normal temperatures for  northern Great Plains, Sat-Mon, Mar 31-Apr 2.
7.) A moderate risk of much below-normal temperatures for the northern Great Plains, upper Mississippi Valley, and Great Lakes, Sat-Fri, Mar 31-Apr 6.
8.) A slight risk of much below-normal temperatures for much of the northern half of the central and eastern U.S., Sat-Fri, Mar 31-Apr 6.
9.)Flooding occurring along the lower Mississippi River and Kankakee River in northwest Indiana.
10.) Flooding likely or possible across parts of eastern South Dakota, southwest Minnesota, and southeast Montana.
11.) Severe Drought across Georgia, South Carolina, California, the Southwest, and Great Plains.


Major River Flooding

According to NOAA, there were 45 river gauges in flood stage as of Saturday, 4 of which where at Major flood stage! Interestingly, 2 of those are in North Dakota near Devils Lake.

MAJOR Flooding Forecast along Mississippi River at Baton Rouge, LA
Take a look at the river gauge along the Mississippi River at Baton Rouge, LA. It entered MAJOR flood stage earlier this month and may not go below major flood stage until the middle of the week! This flooding is the result of very heavy rainfall that happened during the 2nd half of February across the Mississippi and Ohio River Valley areas. It finally looks like the flood waters will recede a bit as we get closer to April.
"Cool satellite image shows rising Mississippi River pouring sediment into the Gulf of Mexico"
"Fresh water from the Ohio River Valley is flooding into the Mississippi River, causing it to rise and pick up speed. A new image taken by a National Aeronautics and Space Administration research satellite shows a fan of sediment leaving the bird's foot delta as a result of the increased flow. The plume extends 10 to 20 miles offshore, said Alex Kolker, an associate professor with Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium. Bent by a southeast wind, the plume curls in on itself.  "It's cool to be able to have the wealth of data that we have in near real time," Kolker said of the image. Louisiana State University's Earthscan Lab compiles satellite images of the state almost every day. Before the Mississippi River was leveed off, flood waters from the river carried sediment into the marsh, rebuilding and stabilizing land along the coast. The state's coastal master plan calls for two river diversions in Plaquemines Parish to reconnect the river with the degrading marsh."
Ice Safety!!
Before you go testing the ice on area lakes and ponds, remember that "ICE IS NEVER 100% SAFE!" So when is ice safe? Here is an excerpt from the MN DNR regarding ice safety: 
"There really is no sure answer. You can't judge the strength of ice just by its appearance, age, thickness, temperature, or whether or not the ice is covered with snow. Strength is based on all these factors -- plus the depth of water under the ice, size of the water body, water chemistry and currents, the distribution of the load on the ice, and local climatic conditions."

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Heaviest snowfall will be in far southern Minnesota

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It's Official: Spring's In No Great Hurry in 2018