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A Year Of Extremes In 2010 For Minn. Climatologists

December 30, 2010

By Andy Rathbun, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

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Dec. 30--IT`S BEEN A WILD -- and deadly -- year for weather in Minnesota, but what was the single biggest event? The summer tornadoes? The December snowstorm?

Minnesota weather and climate officials, not missing an opportunity for the obligatory year-end list, have come up with an answer.

Pete Boulay, assistant state climatologist with the Minnesota Climatology Working Group, polled as many local weather and climate officials as he could find, and the 18 responses pointed to a near consensus of the top five, he said.

`It was a very active year,` Boulay said, noting 2010 likely will be remembered for records that stand for years.

No. 1, the June 17 tornadoes: Minnesota saw 48 twisters, a state record for one day. Three were rated EF-4 -- the greatest single-day number of tornadoes rated that strong since April 30, 1967, according to the climatology group. The outbreak "will remain for some time one of the region`s most widespread, numerous and destructive outbreaks," according to the group`s website. Three people died and 45 were injured as the tornadoes crossed the state.

No. 2, state record for low pressure Oct. 26 in Bigfork: Barometric pressure was recorded at 28.21 inches, something more likely over an ocean. The previous record was 28.43 inches Nov. 10, 1998, in Albert Lea. High winds accompanied the low pressure, with 65 mph gusts recorded at Georgeville and Mehurin Township.

No. 3, the Dec. 10-11 snowstorm: The fifth-largest snowstorm on record for the Twin Cities dropped 17.1 inches at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, clogging roads, grounding planes and collapsing the Metrodome roof. The event missed second place on the climatologists` list by one vote, Boulay said.

No. 4, heavy rain and flooding Sept. 22-23 in southern Minnesota: The rain, which measured 10.68 inches at Amboy, fell on saturated soil. Homes and businesses flooded, and roads became impassible as many rivers and streams reached record-high levels.

No. 5, 104 tornadoes for the year: The June 17 outbreak helped make 2010 a record year, exceeding the 74 tornadoes recorded in 2001. Minnesota is poised to have the highest tornado count in the country for 2010.

Honorable mention, snowless March: Not a flake of snow fell at the airport in March, making it the least-snowiest March in modern records. International Falls had the most snow that month -- two-tenths of an inch.

"We had the summertime big events, and we had the wintertime big events," Boulay said. "It was a very active year all around, and that stands out."

Boulay said there isn`t a single explanation for the year`s extreme weather -- it was just a number of different patterns that occurred over time.

And while 2010 had more-active weather than the past few years, there`s no telling what next year will bring.

"I would hope we don`t have quite as extreme weather in 2011," said Boulay. "I wouldn`t think we`d have as many big events happen in a year, but who knows?"

Andy Rathbun can be reached at 651-228-2121.

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Copyright (c) 2010, Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minn.

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Caption: Ground crews clear snow with their blowers off the tarp covering the field before a game between the Minnesota Vikings and the Chicago Bears in Minneapolis, Monday, Dec. 20, 2010. (AP Photo/The Star Tribune, Jeff Wheeler)

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