Winter awareness week is just around the cornerWORTHINGTON — There’s a very common phrase heard often right around this time of year that goes something like this: “How can it be Nov. 1 already?”
WORTHINGTON — There’s a very common phrase heard often right around this time of year that goes something like this:
“How can it be Nov. 1 already?”
The upcoming holidays aren’t the only thing giving people a slightly panicky feeling. There’s also the realization that sweaters, boots, hats and mittens are making their way out of the closet because the temperature is steadily dropping.
Twenty years ago today, southwest Minnesota received a record 5.5 inches of snow in 24 hours — this is known to some as the infamous “Halloween blizzard of 1991” since the snow started in the evening of Oct. 31. Nineteen years ago today, the temperature maxed out at 75 degrees, which just goes to show that Mother Nature has a mind of her own and can be a bit fickle at times.
According to the National Weather Service from Sioux Falls, S.D., there is a 60 percent chance of a rain/snow mix tonight, with a low in the mid-30s. That rain/snow mix could stretch into Wednesday, with a low dropping into the mid-20s. Like it or not, here comes winter.
Along with the change in temperature comes Winter Weather Awareness Week, which runs Nov. 7-11 in Minnesota. National Weather Service (NWS) Meteorologist Todd Heitkamp said Monday his biggest piece of advice for people regarding winter safety is the same this year as it was last year — personal awareness.
Heitkamp spoke briefly of the number of people in America who died this year due to tornadoes — the highest number of fatalities on record, he said.
“People heard the warnings but didn’t act upon it,” Heitkamp said. “They didn’t believe it was going to happen and waited for other signs to show them what was occurring.”
People often do the same thing during blizzard warnings or storm watches, he added.
“They hear the warning and think, ‘It’s not that bad — I can make it to Grandma’s, I can see outside, I can see across the street,’” Heitkamp explained. “They get out in the middle of a rural area and see how bad it really is.”
It is up to each person to take the personal responsibility of listening to the information presented, understand that information and act on it, he said.
“If you ignore it, there’s going to be consequences,” he added.
Once people go off and gets stranded after making bad decisions, they are not only jeopardizing their own lives, but the lives of first responders who have to go after them, Heitkamp reminded.
Without the benefit of a crystal ball, Heitkamp couldn’t say how much snow will over the next few months.
“Right now it looks like December is slightly below normal temperature-wise, but about normal precipitation-wise,” he said. “January and February are about normal for both.”
The average total snowfall for the area is between 35 and 40 inches, he said, which is about what is expected this winter.
“It looks like a normal winter, depending on your definition of the word normal,” he added.
There is one change this year — the Sioux Falls office will not be issuing wind chill advisories and warnings, but will instead issue extreme cold warnings. To have a wind chill advisory, there needs to be a wind speed of more than 10 mph, but now, Heitkamp said, it will encompass all the information into an extreme cold warning.
According to the NWS, dozens of American die each year from exposure to the cold. Add in accidents and deaths from traffic crashes, fires due to dangerous heater use, and hypothermia and frostbite injuries and the cost can be high.
People should be familiar with winter weather terminology, such as the difference between a weather outlook, which is a seven-day forecast that is issued every day, and an advisory, which is a weather event that could cause a significant inconvenience or lead to life-threatening conditions.
A watch is issued when weather events have the potential to threaten life and property, but the exact timing and location of the storm is uncertain. Generally, they are issued 12 to 48 hours in advance. A warning is normally issued two to 24 hours in advance, and occurs when weather events are happening or imminent and pose a threat to life and property.
Heitkamp suggests people keep a close eye on updates through the media and by visiting the Sioux Falls NWS website at www.weather.gov/siouxfalls.