So far, Dec. is 2nd snowiest

Published 9:06 am Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Cars drive down Fountain Street as Winter Avenue resident Samuel Adams, 13, walks his dogs Monday in the sunshine that made the snow in the trees and on the ground bright white all over Albert Lea. Albert Lea’s sidewalks have become canyons. -- Tim Engstrom/Albert Lea Tribune

Just another inch of snow by Friday night, and Albert Lea will set a new snowfall record for the month of December.

According to Shawn Devinny, meteorologist with the Chanhassen bureau of the National Weather Service, Albert Lea is currently sitting at its second snowiest December, with 33 1/2 inches of snow to date for the month. December’s snowfall record, set in 2000, measured at 34.6 inches of snow for the month.

Total snowfall for the season in Albert Lea, including November snowfall, measures at 35 1/2 inches.

Email newsletter signup

Pair this with rain predicted over the next few days, and the area will not only have a mucky mess, but rising concerns about flooding and slick roads.

The National Weather Service is predicting a 30 percent chance of rain mixed with freezing rain Wednesday night, a 60 percent chance of freezing rain on Thursday and a 60 percent chance of rain and snow on Friday.

“It’s what we call a December thaw,” said Adam Frederick, chief meteorologist at KIMT.

He said a fairly strong low pressure system parked over Nebraska and Kansas will blow in warm air later this week, causing above freezing temperatures on Thursday and turning the precipitation into rain. He said the majority of rain received will be north of the Albert Lea area.

He also said about one-tenth of an inch of rain is equal to getting a 3-inch snowfall, which shouldn’t cause much concern for street flooding and would knock out some of the snow.

Frederick said rain will turn into a wintry mix on Friday, as temperatures in the morning are expected around 33 degrees but cooling throughout the day to the mid-teens. This could cause concern for slick roads, as the wet roads freeze up as the temperatures drop.

Looking into spring and the moisture levels in the ground, any more snowfall or rain could be of concern, according to Devinny.

“It’s been a real wet December, so we should be concerned with flooding,” said Devinny. “Things were still pretty moist from the September rainfalls. There’s a lot of snow already and plenty of winter left to gain more, plus rain in the forecast.”

The ground already had a good deal of moisture going into winter. Total rainfall received in wet September measured at 9.66 inches. Devinny said the average precipitation levels for September is 3 1/2 inches.

Devinny said figuring precipitation from the snow already measures an inch above normal levels for this time of year.

Snowfall measurements are taken daily at Albert Lea’s wastewater treatment plant, located about 3 1/2 miles southeast of the city limits. The measurements are then submitted to the Chanhassen bureau once a week.

Rick Ashling, superintendent at the wastewater treatment plant, said as of Monday morning, there were 21 inches of snow accumulated on the ground.

“The total on the ground is usually the total to date, but that compacts down and blows around,” Ashling said.

Devinny said National Weather Service statistics show that the highest snowfall for Albert Lea for the season was measured in the winter of 1935-1936 with 70.8 inches.

“The winter of 2006-2007 comes close to setting the record with 61.3 inches,” he added.

But it’s still too early to say how bad any flooding could be.

“You never know, we could hit a dry snap and not come close to these figures,” Devinny said.