March 30 to April Fools' Day, 2023: Thunder, Slush, and Damaging Snow

picture of snow and damaged trees
A new blanket of heavy, wet snow bending limbs and branches to the ground in St. Paul on Saturday April 1, 2023
Image credit: Minnesota DNR State Climatology Office

It may have felt like a prank, but no, this was not a joke.

An intense barrage of rain, sleet, thunderstorms, and very heavy snow blasted southern and central Minnesota from Thursday March 30 into Saturday April 1, 2023, resulting in widespread power outages, tree and limb damage, and new daily precipitation records.

The wild spring weather was the result of a powerful low-pressure system that had drenched California earlier in the week, before crossing the Rockies, reorganizing in the Plains, and ingesting a large quantity of moisture from the Gulf of Mexico. The low pressure tracked through northern Iowa, keeping Minnesota on its cool or cold side, while very warm and humid air built up into Iowa and southern Wisconsin. This same system produced a deadly outbreak of tornadoes and severe weather in the middle and lower Mississippi Valley regions, including in neighboring Iowa.

General timeline and impacts

In Minnesota, snow and rain first developed on Thursday afternoon, with a few inches of accumulation in some northern areas. Waves of thunderstorms began developing overnight into Friday morning across southern Minnesota, with scattered reports of nearly constant lightning, hail, and heavy rains.

After a lull from Friday morning into the early afternoon, the storm’s “main event” developed, as strong thunderstorms with heavy rain, small hail, gusty winds, and sleet spread across southern and central Minnesota. Over an hour of of heavy "thunder-slush" produced vivid lightning, loud cracks of thunder, and wind-blown sheets of heavy rain, small hail, and sleet from western Hennepin County towards Lino Lake, Hugo, Forest Lake, and Wyoming late Friday afternoon. An icy slurry with the consistency of slightly melted snow cones covered area roads, as passing vehicles sprayed chunks of ice and water onto each other.

Around sunset, the rain and mixed precipitation changed to a heavy, wet snow across the southern half of Minnesota. The snow had an extremely high water content that exerted tremendous “loading” on trees and limbs, which bent to the ground and snapped across the Twin Cities area and neighboring portions of southern and eastern Minnesota. By early morning on Saturday April 1, over 85 thousand households were without power—mostly in and around the Twin Cities Metropolitan Area. The snow ended across far southeastern Minnesota before sunrise.

Snowfall totals and precipitation

This was a very wet system that produced a lot of rain in southern Minnesota before the snow began. That factor, combined with the wetness of the snow, left the largest totals generally in the 8 to 12-inch range in portions of west-central, central, east-central, and southern Minnesota--generally around Ortonville, Paynesville, and the Twin Cities area. A CoCoRaHS observer in Oakdale reported 13 inches of snow, and nearby observers in southern Maplewood and Woodbury reported a foot of snow, as did observers near Monticello and Medina. The largest storm total from a National Weather Service cooperative observer was 9.9 inches, reported near Stillwater, followed by 9.0 inches at Browns Valley, and 8.5 inches at the Twin Cities International Airport. St. Cloud reported 5 inches of snow, Rochester reported 4.6 inches, and Duluth had 3.2 inches, mostly from the first wave of precipitation on Thursday night.

Precipitation totals reached an inch or more over the southeastern quarter of Minnesota, and in a narrow band from west-central into central Minnesota. Numerous total of 2-3 inches were reported around the Twin Cities and Rochester, and from I-35 to the St. Croix River in Anoka, Chisago, and Washington counties, and then down the Mississippi southeastern Minnesota. The National Weather Service cooperative observer at Forest Lake reported a total of 4.64 inches. Rochester and the Twin Cities airport but set daily precipitation records for March 31, with 2.15 and 1.41 inches, respectively.


Updated April 3, 2023


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