Alan Branhagen looked up as a flock of about 50 American white pelicans crossed the sky Thursday and had to stop himself from yelling, “Turn around!”
Much of the state is iced over, and another oncoming April storm won’t help matters. Nor will it please a lot of Minnesotans bracing for what meteorologists say could be a historic storm, one that puts the Twin Cities within reach of breaking the record for April snowfall.
It’ll start with daytime rain on Friday that turns to snow after sunset, said Eric Ahasic, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. Freezing rain will make things a bit slick during the transition, but there may be less ice and more snow than weather forecasters first expected.
On Thursday night, the Weather Service upgraded its forecast to a blizzard warning for southwestern Minnesota, and to a winter storm warning for much of south-central Minnesota, including the Twin Cities.
The metro area is expected to get 1 to 3 inches of snow Friday night, 5 to 9 inches Saturday, and 1 to 3 additional inches overnight Saturday — a total of 7 to 15 inches of fresh snow for the Twin Cities.
The heaviest snow — up to 22 inches — will fall in western Minnesota, along the South Dakota border. South of the Twin Cities, there will be more rain, but up to 8 inches of snow could blanket the Mankato area.
Winds blowing at 30 miles per hour and gusting up to 35 to 40 mph could create blizzard conditions in western Minnesota. In the Twin Cities, 20-mph winds with gusts up to 30 mph will make it just plain unpleasant.
Storm predictions mean that some spring weekend events such as the March for Science in St. Paul and are being canceled.
The strong April sun — even the rays filtered through clouds — will keep some snow that falls from accumulating on the roads, Ahasic said.
Still, the storm will push the Twin Cities into record-setting territory, he said. So far, 10.3 inches of snow has fallen in the Twin Cities in April, and another 11.5 inches would tie it to the record 21.8 inches that fell in April 1983.
“We’re not done with winter yet,” Ahasic said, noting that another storm may be headed to Minnesota next week. It’s too early to say whether it will be rain or snow that falls, he said. But even just a little bit of snow could push 2018 into the record books.
But most Minnesotans don’t need record books to tell them that winter overstayed its visit. You can see it in snow-covered gardens that have yet to bloom, spring sports on forced hiatus and the prevalence of snow shovels rather than rakes leaning on garage doors.
Spring cleanup in many gardens, including the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum, will once again be delayed. Arboretum gardeners normally would be cutting back perennials and ornamental grasses, said Branhagen, the arboretum’s director of operations. Woodland flowers such as snow trilliums and hepatica should be blooming, but aren’t.
“We’re more than 2½ weeks behind normal,” Branhagen said. This year, he said, is reminiscent of 2013’s delayed spring, when crabapple trees that normally bloom by May 10 didn’t bloom until Memorial Day.
But when the weather finally does warm up, spring may be on a fast track. Everything could burst at the same time, Branhagen said, adding, “It may be really spectacular.”
It’s the birds that he feels sorry for. The American woodcock, which probes its long bill into the ground, has hit frozen dirt. Robins and other songbirds are scrounging fall leftovers. And the pelicans and ospreys are searching for open water.
“And of course the Canada geese are all standing on ice just waiting,” he quipped.
So are the rest of us.