Winter 2019 is starting to play like a broken record-repeating jarring hits of blanketing snowfall and subzero deep freezes.
Looks like the final days of February will offer up more of the same-more snow, more frigid temps and more blasting wind gusts-but the number that stands out most of all is 5.2 inches. That's all that's needed to propel 2019 into the history books with the snowiest February ever recorded in Brainerd history.
The record snowfall for Brainerd in February is 25.4 inches in 2001. Currently, 2019, standing at 20.3 inches, has edged out joint second-placers in 2018 and 1971, while two systems of snowfall-albeit, not exactly projected to be monsters-are forecast to roll through in the coming week, per a report by the National Weather Service.
"So, we're 5.1 inches away from tying the record and 5.2 inches away from breaking it," said Bill Leatham, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Duluth.
As for snowfall, Leatham said another system is on its way-likely hitting the Brainerd lakes area Tuesday evening into early Wednesday morning-with 1-2 inches of snow expected. Furthermore, another series of snowfall is expected to cap February and introduce March on Thursday evening into Friday morning-though it's difficult to say how much this system will bring. Ultimately, the February record may hinge on how these systems produce in the home stretch, Leatham said. Record or not, it could be a narrow margin.
Though, while the lakes area didn't feel the brunt of this weekend's strong and fast storm system, it still looked to see another dose of brutal winter weather-with temperatures feeling like 30 to 40 below zero Sunday night into Monday morning, dependent on the wind chill values.
The Brainerd lakes area dodged the proverbial bullet this weekend, compared to much of the state-experiencing up to a half-inch or snowfall, while wind gusts topped out at 40 mph at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport.
For comparison, Blatnik Bridge in Duluth saw 57 mph gusts at about 2:30 p.m. Sunday, while much of the North Shore, southern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin experienced blizzard conditions.
"So, despite there not being very much snow, there was a lot of wind," Leatham said. "I know there was some low visibility with blowing wind and drifting snow causing some driving issues."
In a news release, the Crow Wing County Highway Department announced high winds were creating drifts along various county roads. Plows were out Sunday and scheduled to clean up drifted roadway at 5 a.m. Monday. Highway department officials advised motorists to use caution while driving and be prepared for drifting.
Gov.Tim Walz declared a peacetime state of emergency Saturday evening and ordered the Minnesota National Guard to provide assistance and emergency relief services for stranded motorists in Freeborn and Steele counties. According to a news release, heavy snow and strong winds stranded motorists in those counties.
The Minnesota National Guard assisted with search and rescue operations and opened armories in Albert Lea and Owatonna to be used as shelters.
While the lakes area braces to see if February 2019 will get into the record books, Duluth is already toasting its own snowfall record for the month-34.2 inches, breaking a record as old as the Wizard of Oz.
"Duluth broke the February monthly record for snowfall today," the National Weather Service office in Duluth tweeted Saturday afternoon. "For now, the record is 34.2 inches with more snow on the way tonight. The previous record was 33.9 inches set in 1939."