The snowy winter of 2022-23 grinds on, with yet another large winter storm, this time with unlikely origins, producing widespread heavy snow and double-digit accumulations across northern Minnesota on March 11-12, 2023.
A Super-DUPER Clipper
The storm originated as a low-pressure area in the prairies of southwestern Canada on Friday, then moved east-southeastward across the northern Rockies, North Dakota, and northern Minnesota, before turning southeastward across Wisconsin on Sunday. This is a similar path to many "Clipper" systems, also called "Alberta Clippers," which are fast-moving systems common during the middle of winter, often producing 1-4 inches of light, powdery snow followed by strong winds and falling temperatures.
Clippers are known more for generating ground blizzards and bitter wind chills than large piles of snow. This storm, however, moved slowly and ingested more moisture from the south than is typically available to clipper-type systems. As a result, this storm appears to have produced more snow than any other storm of similar geographic origins, and dropped at least 50% more snow than the outstanding "Super Clipper" of January 2022.
The snow began in western Minnesota early on Saturday March 11th, and worked eastward and northeastward across the state during the day. Most communities in southern and central Minnesota saw 3-6 hours of accumulating snow, but as the snow band rotated into northern Minnesota, it stalled and was joined by other bands of snow advancing eastward from North Dakota. The result was a much longer exposure to accumulating snow in these areas. In parts of northeastern Minnesota, the snow continued through the daylight hours on Sunday March 12. Lighter snows associated with the main storm's circulation pushed back into southern Minnesota on Sunday, and light snow continued across parts of far eastern Minnesota just after midnight on Monday.
A swath of central and northern Minnesota, reaching as far south as Rush City and as far north as Lutsen and East Grand Forks, received at least eight inches of snow, but many areas had a foot or more. A long strip near the north shore of Lake Superior was hit the hardest, with numerous totals of 14 to 18 inches, including 18.5 inches at a CoCoRaHS station to the west of Two Harbors, 17.1 inches measured by the National Weather Service Cooperative observer 7 miles northwest of Two Harbors, 16 inches at Finland, 14.3 inches at Silver Bay, and 13-16 inches reported in and around Duluth. Officially, the Duluth National Weather Service recorded 12.5 inches of snow.
Many other areas of central and northern Minnesota had over a foot of snow as well, with 12-16 inches reported from the Bemidji area, south and eastward through Hackensack, Pine River, much of Aitkin County, Moose Lake, Mora, Hinckley, and Pine City. Farther south, accumulations of 4-7 inches were common around St. Cloud and the northern Twin Cities area, with the southern Twin Cities and Rochester areas generally seeing 1-3 inches of snow. The Twin Cities airport station recorded just 2.3 inches of snow, with only 1.8 inches at Rochester.
The storm pushed both Minneapolis and Duluth onto their respective lists of top-10 seasonal snowfall totals. Through Sunday March 12, Duluth was ranked #7 with 116.4 inches (the record is 131.8 inches during 1949-50), and Minneapolis was ranked 8th on its list. with 80.3 inches (the record is 98.6 inches during 1983-84). St. Cloud was already in its own top-10, and was ranked number 7 as of the morning of March 12, with 74 inches (the record is 87.9 inches in 1964-65).
March 13, 2023