The past week of gloomy, wet skies with more forecast in the days ahead means that this so-far underwhelming fall will likely produce dimmer fall colors, fewer pumpkin patch visits and a lot more time to read by the fire.
That’s the prediction so far as rainy weather settles over large stretches of the state this week, prompting the National Weather Service to issue a flood watch for the Twin Cities and most of southern and southeastern Minnesota.
“It’s wet. It’s Minnesota. At least it’s not snow,” Katherine Fischer said as she peered out at the gray skies from a downtown Minneapolis sidewalk while awaiting her bus Monday evening.
Forecasts call for 2 to 4 inches of rain in the metro area and southern Minnesota, with 5 to 6 inches possible from south-central and eastern Minnesota into west-central Wisconsin. The flood watch is in effect until Wednesday morning.
Even with eight cloudy or partly cloudy days so far this month, we’ve got a ways to go to beat our gloomiest October ever, said Peter Boulay, assistant state climatologist. That would be 2009, when the metro area recorded one sunny day for the entire month.
We’re running about 5 degrees below normal for temps so far in October, with the season’s first subfreezing temps expected Thursday night with a low of 31. For leaf peepers, the abundance of cloud cover so far this month could mean a less colorful fall canopy, said state Department of Natural Resources expert Val Cervenka. “What’s needed for the reds to really pop is bright, sunny days,” she said.
Strong sunshine helps fill leaves with a pigment, anthocyanin, that’s responsible for red and crimson colors. The best fall display usually comes with warm days, bright sunshine, and cool nights.
The state is behind where it should be with fall colors, but that can change very quickly, Cervenka said. “If we get lots of sunlight next week and drops in temperature, we may see — all of a sudden — things turning. Keep your eye on those maples,” she said.
The rainfall could be good for trees as winter approaches, said Jennifer Teegarden, DNR forestry outreach specialist. “As long as it’s not in standing water, this is actually good for the trees. Trees have a better survival rate if they go into the winter well watered,” she said.
Fierce weather expected on Lake Superior later this week could threaten the shoreline Tuesday evening into Wednesday with flooding, the National Weather Service said. The worst of it should hit Duluth early Wednesday, with a combination of high waves expected to reach 12 to 16 feet.
Since Sept. 1, the Twin Cities has picked up 8.2 inches of rain, which is about 4½ inches above normal, according to the Minnesota State Climatology Office.
No warm-ups are in sight as highs over the weekend will remain in the 40s, with lows in the 30s. A chance of rain arrives Saturday, possibly mixing with snow showers Saturday night, the Weather Service said.
Meteorologist Paul Douglas hints at warmer temps next week but plowable snow in the northern third of the state Wednesday night.
But is all of this necessarily bad news? Jennifer Hilderbrand was untroubled by the overcast weather settling over downtown Minneapolis as she waited at her bus stop Monday evening.
Gloomy weather is a time for calm, peaceful hours near a fire, she said. And when it’s sunny those quiet moments end, because, she added, “you should be out doing something.”