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No foolin': Storm set to produce ‘tie-breaking low temperatures’

WORTHINGTON -- Whether Tuesday's fresh blanket of snow was a welcome sight for area residents or not, the early April snowstorm was not an uncommon event for the region.

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A Minnesota Department of Transportation snowplow scrapes ice and snow Tuesday morning off an Interstate 90 westbound lane east of Adrian. (Tim Middagh / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON - Whether Tuesday’s fresh blanket of snow was a welcome sight for area residents or not, the early April snowstorm was not an uncommon event for the region.

However, Tuesday night and into Wednesday was projected to reap a “once-in-a-100-plus-year event,” said meteorologist Brad Temeyer with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, S.D.

“We’re calling for a forecast low around 4 degrees,” Temeyer said Tuesday morning about the temperature, projected to tie the area’s lowest April temperature on record since 1894. “It’s a fairly significant event, actually. It’s not often that you’re setting monthly low temperatures.”

With winds gusting from 20 to 25 miles per hour, wind chill values were projected at 5 degrees to 10 degrees below zero, Temeyer added.

Temeyer said Tuesday night’s forecasted light winds, clear skies and recent snowpack provided idyllic conditions for the cold surface. According to Temeyer, April 9, 2003 was the only other recorded 4-degree temperature for the area.  

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Prior to Tuesday night’s projected record-tying low temperatures, the region received significant snowfall that started Monday night and continued throughout much of Tuesday.

As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, the Worthington Wastewater Treatment Plant reported about 6 inches of snow accumulation. The plant had recorded 3.5 inches at 7 a.m.

Mike Gillispie, hydrologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, S.D., said recorded snowfall amounts would likely vary due to the wind continuing to blow as the storm settled.

Gillispie said much of Nobles County received 5 to 6 inches of snow accumulation. Gillispie said southern Jackson County and northwest Iowa would likely record the largest snowfall amounts in the area at around 7 to 8 inches. Sibley, Iowa would likely be in the 6- to 8-inch range, and Pipestone County - with 3 to 5 inches - received the area’s lightest snowfall.

City plows, which went out around 4:30 a.m. Tuesday, were kept busy, said Worthington Public Works Director Todd Wietzema. He said crews were hopeful to have the main streets cleared by 4 p.m. Tuesday, and that downtown cleanup was expected to begin Tuesday evening and continue into early Wednesday. Snow removed from city streets would be dumped at the city’s old swimming pool parking lot on Liberty Drive and Lake Avenue.

“If it would have quit a little sooner we would have had it even better, but we’re getting it cleaned up,” Wietzema said Tuesday afternoon. “When we get it cleaned up, it seems to be melting off pretty good.”

Road conditions were not ideal throughout Nobles and surrounding counties, but area law enforcement agencies reported a manageable call load nonetheless.

According to Nobles County Sheriff Kent Wilkening, crashes were minimal Tuesday considering the low-visibility conditions.

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“There’s been a few cars in the ditch,” Wilkening said late Tuesday afternoon, adding that crashes proved to be greater in property damage than personal injury. “I think people are driving pretty good today.”

The Worthington Police Department had a similar experience Tuesday.

According to Worthington Dispatcher Hannah Huls, dispatch calls were minimal provided the conditions. She added that there were a handful of crashes reported in Nobles County since noon, which included two rollovers.

“There weren’t any injuries that I know of,” Huls said.  

According to the Tuesday afternoon incident report, there were two minor crashes within Worthington city limits early Tuesday morning.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office posted a request on its Facebook page at around 4:30 p.m. that motorists avoid Minnesota 60 at Heron Lake due to a multiple car pileup.

According to Jackson County Sheriff Shawn Haken, the pileup - which involved multiple semis, pickups and cars - blocked the westbound lane. He reported one minor injury. Heron Lake Ambulance and Fire responded as well as multiple Minnesota Department of Transportation vehicles that assisted with traffic control.  

While the snow accumulation proved to affect motorists, area schools and businesses, it was not record-breaking, Temeyer said.

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“We still see quite a big of snowfall in the month of April,” he said. “It’s one of the snowiest months in the region.”

April 1994 and 2000 received 12.5 inches of snow accumulation, 12 inches fell in 1988 and 9 inches in 1983.

The greatest snow accumulation on record for an April calendar day occured on April 7, 2000. Worthington received 10 inches of accumulation that day.

Another more recent historic winter event in April transpired April 9-10, 2013 with an ice storm that later produced 8.5 inches of snow accumulation.

The upcoming forecast does not look too promising for those eager to see snow disappear for a while.

Temeyer said below normal temperatures are expected to continue throughout this week and into the next. In fact, Temeyer is expecting another record-tying event.

“Friday will get another strong push of arctic air into Thursday night and Friday with high temperatures in the lower 20s,” he said. “What’s interesting is that is one of the coldest highs we’ve seen on record.”

Temeyer said the coldest high temperature (21 degrees) for the month was recorded April 2, 1975. He added that it doesn’t appear the area will experience normal seasonal temperatures - around 50 degrees - for the near future.

“Right now in the forecast we don’t have anything approaching that,” he said. “Conditions are moterating from this pattern toward the middle portion of next week, but it looks like the bulk of the first half of April is well below normal (temperatures).”

The elongated snowy season has also come at a cost to the city.

Wietzema said that while his budget is doing OK, payment of overtime hours on every holiday and the majority of weekends since Christmas makes it not fare as well as previous years.

“We’ve had a lot of overtime,” Wietzema said. “We’ve had only two weekends since Dec. 22 (2017) that there hasn’t been some people working because the snow blew or it has been icy.”

A few areas that have allowed the public works department to keep its budget in check are what Wietzema considered a milder fall season, a reserve fund, sufficient sand/salt supplies and equipment available, and an additional snow plow.

“That’s been a big help because that increases our amount of plowing we get done per time,” he said.  

As a result of the April 3 snow day, students at Worthington Public Schools will cut one day out of their summer vacation.

According to Superintendent John Landgaard, District 518 students made up their first snow day on President’s Day and yesterday’s will be made up June 1. Should other further weather-related school closures occur, make-up days will continue after June 1 as necessary.

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