The Great Snowpocalypse of 2023 wasn't quite that.
The hallowed Halloween Blizzard of 1991 gets to keep its title belt, and Tuesday-through-Thursday snowfall totals won't break the state's historical Top 10.
But they might make the Top 20. Because it was big.
Was it worth all the freaking out days in advance?
Twitter wasn't so sure Thursday, but meteorologists and government officials said it absolutely was. Lives might have been saved, they said, and if all the advance precautions — school closures, parking emergencies and media coverage — hadn't happened, this story might have a very different headline.
School buses and motorists might have been stranded, fire trucks might not have been able get to fires — as they did in one St. Paul blaze — and untold residents in the cities would be scrambling to dig out vehicles that were instead pulled off the streets ahead of the snow.
"No regrets at all," Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey said Thursday afternoon. "For something like this, no one loses from being overprepared. And we still have a lot to do."
Were the forecasts wrong?
The first statements from the National Weather Service on Monday predicted two waves of snow with total accumulations between 16 and 22 inches.
That proved true. And not. It depended on where you were.
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the metro's official recording station, logged 13.1 inches. St. Paul tallied 12 inches and Coon Rapids 11.6 inches, according to data collected by the Weather Service's network of volunteers who measure precipitation. All of those were below the forecast range.
On the other hand, the Weather Service's Twin Cities headquarters in Chanhassen saw 16 inches, Prior Lake saw 17.5 inches and Apple Valley won the unofficial bragging rights with 20 inches — all within the lower part of the forecast.
One reading from northeast Minneapolis measured 16.7 inches, while another in southwest Minneapolis measured 10 inches, a discrepancy that could be the result of trouble with accurate measurements when the wind is howling.
The big picture looked like this: No one got a record-breaking, worst-case scenario. Much of the metro got something that fell within the forecast. And some parts, including the north metro and the core cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul — where the highest concentration of people (and social media users) live — got less.
The gnarly storm system — a low-pressure system that sucked up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico right when it was invaded by cold air from Canada — showed up in computer forecast models well in advance, and with confidence.
"There weren't a lot of outliers," said Ryan Dunleavy, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. "We were amazed because we don't always see that, but these models were very consistent, and that's why we communicated it the way we did."
By and large, the storm played out as forecast, both in terms of when and where. The uneven snowfall was the result of a band of heavy snow that stalled over the southwest metro and never reached the cities.
As for the overall snowfall: "Basically what happened was it lost moisture," Dunleavy said. Exactly why is unclear.
Atmospheric moisture — a crucial component in determining snowfall — is one of the more finicky things to predict. It's possible that the urban heat island around Minneapolis and St. Paul might have played some part, meteorologists said, but we might never know.
"These winter storms are big," said Dan Hawblitzel, meteorologist in charge of the Weather Service's Twin Cities office. "They have a lot of moving parts. There will always be an inherent unpredictability in these storms. We try to infuse that into our messaging as best we can without saying '2 to 70 inches' like those memes."
Did the hype help?
Hawblitzel defended not only the how Weather Service sounded the alarm ahead of the storm but also how the media portrayed those forecasts, often with phrases like "could drop 20 inches," as the Star Tribune warned on the front page of its Tuesday paper.
"That's accurate," he said. "The storm always had the potential to produce that much. That's important to get out there."
Public safety was the main theme for officials from Minneapolis to Worthington as they emphasized what might have been if so many advance precautions not been taken.
Regardless of the actual snow totals in a collection tube, the wind-driven snow wreaked havoc on travel. Highways across the southwestern portion of the state, including Interstate 90, remained closed Thursday morning, and the Minnesota Department of Transportation posted photos of snowdrifts across roads that were above the wheels of plow trucks, warning, "... it's serious. And dangerous."
In the cities, full arsenals of snow-clearing equipment and manpower struggled to keep up, largely because of the storm's duration. In St. Paul on Wednesday night, for example, every night route was plowed, but because some of the heaviest snow fell after the plows went through, many of those streets were covered with a thick, pristine blanket when residents awoke Thursday.
Sean Kershaw, St. Paul's director of public works, said some plow drivers were actually disappointed there wasn't more snow.
"Folks need to understand they do this because they want to protect public safety," Kershaw said. "They are the cavalry."
He offered a Minnesota analogy for a uniquely Minnesota sentiment: "It's kind of like a Vikings season. There is a community spirit that builds up saying this storm is gonna be big, and then we get disappointed when it's not."