Ice Storm, Rain, and Blizzard: December 28-29, 2019

snow map
Snowfall totals from Dec 28-30, 2019.
Credit: NOAA Snowfall Analysis

A wild year ended in wild fashion, as a large winter storm Saturday and Sunday, December 28-29, brought icy conditions to much of Minnesota, followed by rain in the south and east, and heavy snow with strong winds in the north and west.

The precipitation formed as a low pressure system moved from the southwestern Plains into Minnesota, dragging a large quantity of moisture northward. With cold air in place at the surface, but temperatures warming to well-above freezing a mile above the ground, the stage was set for a round of freezing rain and sleet.

Problems began almost immediately on Saturday morning, as an area of rain moved in while temperatures were still below freezing across the state. The rain froze upon contact, forming a slick glaze on virtually all surfaces. The morning hours were filled with scenes of pedestrians slipping and falling. Icy conditions produced nearly 500 vehicle crashes on Minnesota roads Saturday, with 43 injuries and two fatalities. Sections of interstate highways were closed at times across the state, and Metro Transit ordered a system-wide suspension of bus service for the first time in nearly nine years.

As the center of the storm system moved into Minnesota Saturday afternoon, the air warmed enough to turn the ice back over to rain over most of Minnesota, although freezing rain and sleet continued in parts of southwest and northeast Minnesota.

The steady rain ended over much of the area later Saturday night into the morning of Sunday December 29, just as a substantial snowstorm began forming over the north and west. Moderate to heavy snow fell north and west of an arc connecting Marshall, Alexadria, Brainerd, and Duluth. The National Weather Service issued Blizzard Warnings for the Red River Valley in Minnesota and North Dakota, where winds gusting as high as 50 mph combined with the falling snow to produce whiteout conditions.

The storm produced an inch of precipitation or so over almost all of Minnesota, but closer to two inches in isolated areas. The highest precipitation totals through the morning of December 30 included 2.22 inches at the Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center, 2.17 inches near Breckenridge, and 2.00 inches at Melrose. Snowfall totals included 13.5 inches at Climax; 13 inches at Bemidji and Elbow Lake; 12 inches at Crookston, Detroit Lakes, and Park Rapids; 9.2 inches at Big Falls and Chisholm; and 9.0 inches at Walker.

On Monday December 30th, the system spawned a new low pressure area well to the east, that intensified and produced several inches of additional snowfall, especially over eastern Minnesota.

The following summaries are from the Grand Forks and Duluth offices of the National Weather Service.

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT  
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GRAND FORKS ND  
831 AM CST MON DEC 30 2019
[Known Minnesota locations in Bold]  
   
..SNOWFALL REPORTS  
  
LOCATION                     AMOUNT    TIME/DATE       PROVIDER               
5 NNE LUVERNE                17.3 IN   0440 PM 12/29   TRAINED SPOTTER        
FORMAN                       17.0 IN   0711 PM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
FRONTIER                     17.0 IN   0343 PM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
MAPLETON                     14.0 IN   0225 AM 12/30   PUBLIC                 
MAYVILLE                     14.0 IN   0146 PM 12/29   BROADCAST MEDIA        
FARGO                        13.5 IN   0813 PM 12/29   BROADCAST MEDIA        
CLIMAX                       13.0 IN   0611 PM 12/29   BROADCAST MEDIA        
2 N FISHER                   13.0 IN   0535 PM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
5 N LEONARD                  13.0 IN   0150 PM 12/29   BROADCAST MEDIA        
BEMIDJI                      13.0 IN   1245 PM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
ELBOW LAKE                   13.0 IN   1045 AM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
GRAND FORKS                  12.9 IN   0654 AM 12/30   OFFICIAL NWS OBS       
MEKINOCK                     12.0 IN   0502 PM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
HENDRUM                      12.0 IN   0400 PM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
1 SE PARK RAPIDS             12.0 IN   0230 PM 12/29   TRAINED SPOTTER        
1 N DETROIT LAKES            12.0 IN   0220 PM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
CROOKSTON                    12.0 IN   1245 PM 12/29   BROADCAST MEDIA        
2 N HOLT                     11.6 IN   1258 PM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
SAUM                         11.5 IN   0535 PM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
MOORHEAD                     11.5 IN   1054 AM 12/29   BROADCAST MEDIA        
LISBON                       11.0 IN   0500 PM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
FRAZEE                       11.0 IN   1230 PM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
3 ESE WESTBURY               10.4 IN   0725 AM 12/30   COCORAHS               
THORHULT MN                  10.2 IN   0500 PM 12/29   COOP                   
TWIN VALLEY                  10.0 IN   0503 PM 12/29   BROADCAST MEDIA        
PENNINGTON                   10.0 IN   0130 PM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
NORTHWOOD                    10.0 IN   0130 PM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
KELLIHER                     10.0 IN   0845 AM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
CALLAWAY                     9.5 IN    1259 PM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
PELICAN RAPIDS               9.0 IN    0255 AM 12/30   CO-OP OBSERVER         
HENDRUM                      9.0 IN    1035 AM 12/29   BROADCAST MEDIA        
LIDGERWOOD                   8.5 IN    0722 AM 12/30   CO-OP OBSERVER         
NEWFOLDEN                    8.5 IN    1030 AM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
PARK RAPIDS                  8.0 IN    0830 AM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
ROSEAU                       7.0 IN    0228 AM 12/30   PUBLIC                 
3 NW OYLEN                   6.5 IN    0900 AM 12/29   PUBLIC                 
WARROAD 4 W                  5.9 IN    1000 PM 12/29   COOP                   
DEVILS LAKE                  5.0 IN    0534 AM 12/30   BROADCAST MEDIA 


PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT  
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DULUTH MN  
1239 PM CST SUN DEC 29 2019
[Most reports over 3 inches from MN]  
   
..SNOWFALL REPORTS AS OF 12:40PM DECEMBER 29 2019  
  
LOCATION                     AMOUNT    TIME/DATE       LAT/LON                
BIG FALLS 1.0 N              9.2 IN    0930 AM 12/29   48.19N/93.81W          
1 NW CHISHOLM                9.2 IN    0915 AM 12/29   47.50N/92.89W          
ISLAND LAKE 4 E              9.2 IN    0900 AM 12/29   47.02N/92.07W          
1 W SIDE LAKE                9.0 IN    0947 AM 12/29   47.67N/93.04W          
WALKER COMMUNITY CENTER      9.0 IN    1000 AM 12/29   47.15N/94.65W          
CHISHOLM 0.4 WSW             8.9 IN    0900 AM 12/29   47.49N/92.89W          
7 NNW TWO HARBORS            8.8 IN    0829 AM 12/29   47.13N/91.71W          
TWO HARBORS 3.6 WNW          8.1 IN    0700 AM 12/29   47.04N/91.75W          
3 N CANYON                   8.0 IN    0858 AM 12/29   47.08N/92.46W          
TWO HARBORS 9.7 NNE          8.0 IN    0700 AM 12/29   47.17N/91.62W          
TWO HARBORS 2.1 NW           7.5 IN    1010 AM 12/29   47.05N/91.71W          
CASS LAKE                    7.0 IN    0800 AM 12/29   47.38N/94.61W          
8 NNW COLERAINE              7.0 IN    0827 AM 12/29   47.41N/93.49W          
DULUTH 11.8 NNE              7.0 IN    0710 AM 12/29   46.95N/92.04W          
3 E FINLAND                  7.0 IN    0840 AM 12/29   47.42N/91.18W          
CANYON 4.6 NNE               6.7 IN    0900 AM 12/29   47.10N/92.42W          
2 S BRIMSON                  6.6 IN    0905 AM 12/29   47.25N/91.86W          
CELINA 2 E                   6.5 IN    0800 AM 12/29   47.87N/93.03W          
COLERAINE 1.5 S              6.5 IN    0700 AM 12/29   47.28N/93.42W          
DULUTH 15.4 NNW              6.5 IN    0800 AM 12/29   46.99N/92.24W          
7 WSW HOVLAND                6.5 IN    1108 AM 12/29   47.82N/90.11W          
WOLF RIDGE                   6.5 IN    0700 AM 12/29   47.38N/91.20W          
KEEWATIN 0.2 SSE             6.4 IN    0800 AM 12/29   47.40N/93.08W          
BOVEY 13.4 N                 6.3 IN    0645 AM 12/29   47.49N/93.44W          
HACKENSACK 7.0 ENE           6.3 IN    0700 AM 12/29   46.96N/94.37W          
3 E PAYNE                    6.3 IN    0531 AM 12/29   47.10N/92.53W          
TWO HARBORS                  6.3 IN    0700 AM 12/29   47.02N/91.66W          
COHASSET 7.6 NNW             6.2 IN    0700 AM 12/29   47.34N/93.70W          
2 SW TWO HARBORS             6.2 IN    1230 AM 12/29   47.01N/91.71W          
COTTON 5.7 ESE               6.0 IN    0800 AM 12/29   47.15N/92.36W          
GRAND RAPIDS 12 N            6.0 IN    0630 AM 12/29   47.40N/93.51W          
7 N MCGREGOR                 6.0 IN    0700 AM 12/29   46.71N/93.29W          
2 SSE PINE RIVER             6.0 IN    0808 AM 12/29   46.69N/94.37W          
DULUTH 17.6 NNW              5.9 IN    0630 AM 12/29   46.99N/92.31W          
HOVLAND 0.1 NE               5.8 IN    0700 AM 12/29   47.84N/89.97W          
GRAND RAPIDS 6.1 N           5.7 IN    0700 AM 12/29   47.31N/93.55W          
NASHWAUK 11.5 N              5.7 IN    0630 AM 12/29   47.55N/93.19W          
COTTON                       5.5 IN    0900 AM 12/29   47.17N/92.46W          
NWS DULUTH                   5.5 IN    0600 AM 12/29   46.84N/92.21W          
BOVEY 15.9 N                 5.1 IN    0700 AM 12/29   47.53N/93.40W          
IRON JUNCTION 3.4 NNW        5.0 IN    0700 AM 12/29   47.46N/92.63W          
ISABELLA 14 W                5.0 IN    0900 AM 12/29   47.59N/91.65W          
ORR 3 E                      5.0 IN    0600 AM 12/29   48.06N/92.75W          
2 N PILLAGER                 5.0 IN    1007 AM 12/29   46.35N/94.47W          
SUPERIOR 14.8 S              5.0 IN    0700 AM 12/29   46.48N/92.07W          
2 WSW TWIG                   5.0 IN    0900 PM 12/28   46.89N/92.41W          
DULUTH 8.0 NE                4.8 IN    1057 PM 12/28   46.88N/92.01W          
PEQUOT LAKES                 4.8 IN    0937 AM 12/29   46.61N/94.32W          
BAYFIELD 9N                  4.5 IN    0700 AM 12/29   46.94N/90.83W          
3 N BRAINERD                 4.5 IN    0924 AM 12/29   46.40N/94.19W          
2 SSW ELY                    4.5 IN    0804 AM 12/29   47.88N/91.87W          
3 NNE LESTER PARK            4.5 IN    0923 PM 12/28   46.88N/92.00W          
MOOSE LAKE                   4.5 IN    0523 PM 12/28   46.45N/92.77W          
TOFTE 4.9 NE                 4.5 IN    0700 AM 12/29   47.62N/90.76W          
2 ENE HOLYOKE                4.4 IN    0801 AM 12/29   46.48N/92.34W          
4 NW TWO HARBORS             4.4 IN    0817 PM 12/28   47.07N/91.75W          
WRENSHALL 9.7 SSE            4.4 IN    0700 AM 12/29   46.49N/92.34W          
2 E KETTLE RIVER             4.3 IN    0748 PM 12/28   46.49N/92.84W          
3 N MAHTOWA                  4.3 IN    0832 PM 12/28   46.61N/92.64W          
PILLAGER 5.1 N               4.3 IN    0700 AM 12/29   46.40N/94.46W          
WRENSHALL                    4.3 IN    0800 AM 12/29   46.62N/92.38W          
BRAINERD 11.5 E              4.2 IN    0750 AM 12/29   46.39N/93.96W          
1 NW FOXBORO                 4.0 IN    0430 PM 12/28   46.49N/92.29W          
FREDENBERG                   4.0 IN    0707 PM 12/28   46.97N/92.22W          
2 NNW GARY NEW DULUTH        4.0 IN    0800 PM 12/28   46.71N/92.23W          
KABETOGAMA                   4.0 IN    0700 AM 12/29   48.41N/93.05W          
MEADOWLANDS                  4.0 IN    0825 PM 12/28   47.07N/92.73W          
3 NNE NISSWA                 4.0 IN    1050 AM 12/29   46.55N/94.28W          
OLIVER                       4.0 IN    0625 PM 12/28   46.65N/92.19W          
4 SSW SAND BAY               4.0 IN    1000 PM 12/28   46.88N/90.93W          
1 S TWIG                     4.0 IN    0525 PM 12/28   46.88N/92.36W          
2 WNW TWO HARBORS            4.0 IN    0700 PM 12/28   47.04N/91.70W          
3 E WRIGHT                   4.0 IN    0600 AM 12/29   46.68N/92.95W          
GRAND MARAIS 4.4 W           3.9 IN    0700 AM 12/29   47.75N/90.44W          
DULUTH 3.0 NE                3.8 IN    0815 AM 12/29   46.82N/92.06W          
ELY INTL WOLF CENTER         3.8 IN    0800 AM 12/29   47.91N/91.83W          
2 SSW MOOSE LAKE             3.7 IN    0753 PM 12/28   46.42N/92.80W          
1 SE CLOQUET                 3.5 IN    0900 PM 12/28   46.71N/92.45W          
4.1 ENE CORNUCOPIA           3.5 IN    0732 PM 12/28   46.88N/91.02W          
FORT RIPLEY 0.8 N            3.5 IN    0700 AM 12/29   46.18N/94.37W          
3 WSW GRAND MARAIS           3.5 IN    0826 AM 12/29   47.74N/90.41W          
6 SE SAINT MATHIAS           3.5 IN    0510 PM 12/28   46.17N/94.15W          
BRAINERD                     3.4 IN    0700 AM 12/29   46.34N/94.21W          
ELY 25 E                     3.4 IN    0704 AM 12/29   47.97N/91.45W          
GRAND MARAIS 4.4 WSW         3.4 IN    0700 AM 12/29   47.74N/90.44W          
6.8 N TWO HARBORS            3.4 IN    0700 PM 12/28   47.13N/91.71W          
BRAINERD 7.7 SSE             3.3 IN    0700 AM 12/29   46.25N/94.15W          
1 N CLOQUET                  3.2 IN    0645 PM 12/28   46.73N/92.45W          
COOK 8NE                     3.2 IN    0600 AM 12/29   47.85N/92.69W          
12 N ISLE                    3.2 IN    0800 AM 12/29   46.32N/93.50W          
1 N MOTLEY                   3.2 IN    0545 PM 12/28   46.35N/94.65W          
3.7 NE SEA GULL LAKE         3.2 IN    0700 AM 12/29   48.17N/90.89W          
TROMMALD 6.1 NW              3.2 IN    0800 AM 12/29   46.56N/94.12W          
DULUTH 1.4 NNW               3.0 IN    0822 AM 12/29   46.80N/92.11W          
DULUTH 7.9 SW                3.0 IN    0900 AM 12/29   46.71N/92.23W          
6.5 SE DUQUETTE              3.0 IN    0800 AM 12/29   46.28N/92.50W          
WILLOW RIVER                 3.0 IN    0519 PM 12/28   46.32N/92.84W          
4 NW TWO HARBORS             2.6 IN    0545 PM 12/28   47.07N/91.75W          
3 SSW BRUNO                  2.5 IN    0947 AM 12/29   46.24N/92.68W          
SANDSTONE                    2.5 IN    0448 PM 12/28   46.13N/92.86W          
7 WSW PINE RIVER             2.4 IN    1045 PM 12/28   46.69N/94.54W          
BAYFIELD FISH HATCHERY       2.0 IN    0800 AM 12/29   46.79N/90.86W          
7 ESE SUPERIOR               2.0 IN    0622 PM 12/28   46.66N/91.90W          
3 SSW SUPERIOR               2.0 IN    0559 PM 12/28   46.67N/92.11W          
SUPERIOR 2 ENE               2.0 IN    1200 AM 12/29   46.73N/92.07W          
5 S HERBSTER                 1.8 IN    1000 AM 12/29   46.77N/91.24W          
DULUTH 1.2 SE                1.5 IN    0600 AM 12/29   46.77N/92.09W          
POPLAR 2.0 E                 1.4 IN    0700 AM 12/29   46.58N/91.75W          
BROOK PARK 3.9 S             1.3 IN    0630 AM 12/29   45.89N/93.06W          
5 NNE BRULE                  1.2 IN    0800 AM 12/29   46.62N/91.53W          
ASHLAND 0.5 WNW              1.1 IN    0700 AM 12/29   46.58N/90.88W          
ASHLAND 9.8 W                1.0 IN    0700 AM 12/29   46.60N/91.08W          
3 W LESTER PARK              1.0 IN    0430 PM 12/28   46.85N/92.08W          
4 SE SUPERIOR                1.0 IN    0400 PM 12/28   46.68N/92.02W           
  
OBSERVATIONS ARE COLLECTED FROM A VARIETY OF SOURCES WITH VARYING  
EQUIPMENT AND EXPOSURES. WE THANK ALL VOLUNTEER WEATHER OBSERVERS   
FOR THEIR DEDICATION. NOT ALL DATA LISTED ARE CONSIDERED OFFICIAL. 

 

Last modified: December 30, 2019