Anyone who was out shoveling yesterday knows we got a dumping of snow in the Park Rapids area this weekend.
Forecaster Peter Speicher at the National Weather Service in Grand Forks said they received Facebook reports ranging from 9 to 12 inches, but the official report called in by the Hubbard County Highway Department was 12 inches in Park Rapids.
The snow started Saturday morning, and by 3 p.m. on Sunday, was falling more heavily, leading to snow-covered and slippery roads. Snow continued into Sunday morning.
“You guys are in a higher elevation, so that would explain a little bit the higher amounts over there compared to Detroit Lakes,” Speicher said. “But also just the track of the storm is the main thing. It stayed south and moved east to west, leading to higher amounts in west-central Minnesota.”
He said the forecast maps for this first big snow of the season were fairly accurate, although the heavy snow came later than the winter storm watch predicted. “That’s kind of normal because we cover such a big area,” he said.
Speicher said the winter storm warning lasted until noon Sunday to account for blowing snow that didn’t really materialize. “The winds were a little bit lighter than we thought they were going to be,” he said.
During storms like this, forecasters are on the job at the Grand Forks office around the clock. Speicher said feeds on the radar for snow in Park Rapids may not be as accurate due to the distance and elevation.
“Getting good accurate snow amounts is the most difficult thing due to the distance from Mayville, N.D. where the radar is,” he said. “Radar generally underestimates the amount of snow out there.”
He said that is why they rely on reports from the highway department, where people are out measuring current amounts on the ground.
“We also have lots of webcams that we can monitor to see what’s going on over there, including some good quality video from downtown Park Rapids,” he said.
As to the Farmer’s Almanac forecast for “a parade of snowstorms” ahead, Speicher said he doesn’t believe there is any science behind those forecasts, adding the National Weather Services doesn’t do reports that far out due to inaccuracy.
“We only go out seven days with our forecast,” he said. “But looking ahead two weeks, it looks like we’re going to be slightly warmer than normal, and that pattern looks even stronger out three to four weeks in December, and the precipitation looks close to normal to maybe slightly above. It should be a dry week ahead, with the next chance for measurable precip coming on the weekend.”