Fall is coming- ETA 35 Minutes

Rarely is it possible for me to predict the arrival of anything with any sort of precision. Take my wife and daughter for example. In Mrs S’s case I’ve been trying to predict what time she’s going to be ready for any given activity for better than 30 years and to this day, I can’t get it closer than 20 minutes. My daughters future spouse will enjoy the same futile attempt at promptness, if current habits are any indication. But today I was lucky enough to capture the arrival of an entire season!

This is the view on my Weatherunderground.com high def radar this morning. What you can see here is the exact location of “weather” fall, not astronomical fall, not nautical fall, not Mayan fall, but the real moment when fall weather will hit Apple Valley Minnesota, headquarters of the Sank Empire … at least my branch of it. There’s some discussion that Fort Worth Texas could be the actual Sank HQ and I’m inclined to agree, so going forward I’m calling my part of Minnesota SHQT- which is Sank Headquarters tundra edition.

If you look at the map you can see a line, I’ve marked it for those of you in California (Roster) who aren’t used to seeing a weather map with actual weather on it. That line is a frontal boundary between a mass of warm sticky (only approved use of those two words in that combination) air that has made the last few days around quite summer like. The other side of that boundary is a mass of cold is which are going to change things up around here rather significantly in about 30 minutes.

One of the benefits of my advancing age is that I get to see things that happen in the world on any given day way before anyone else does because I’m blessed with some kind of early waking syndrome. I get up at 5:00am on Saturday. You folks should try it, you miss so much when you snooze right through the dawn. So damned what if you miss a big chunk of the afternoon because you’re up and bouncing around at 5:00am, nothing good ever happens after 2:00 anyway. This morning I woke to the sound of some very heavy winds blowing through the trees. Which is what prompted me to look this stuff up and inspired me to write something to share with you. You’re welcome.

What this cool map view describes is an approaching cold front that’s going to drop temperatures around here from a balmy 69 degrees to 46 degrees over the course of 90 minutes. I, being a total weather nerd, find this stuff very interesting and one of the many many many perks we enjoy living here in the upper Midwest, where we are so far from the nearest large body of water that there is nothing to mitigate our weather gradients. You’d have to travel all the way to the vast steppes of Central Asia and Siberia go get weather this fun.

This temperature dropping phenomena BTW, enormous swings in short periods of time is not unprecedented, in the 1940 we had the Armistice Day Blizzard. That’s a great little piece of weather history if you’d like to really get your meteorological dweeb on . That weather event is still talked about here in Minnesota, made quite an impression.

On November 11 1940 the afternoon temperatures reached a very unseasonable 65 degrees. Duck hunters were out in force due to a three-day weekend, and because it was so warm many were sitting in their blinds in their shirt sleeves. By the early evening the winds had picked up to 50MPH and heavy snow was falling, and by midnight temperatures were in the single digits. None of this weather was forecasted. In those days all weather forecasting for this area was done out of Chicago, we didn’t have local weather service stations. This was before satellites and automated weather stations and 24 hour forecasting like we have today. As a matter of fact it was because of this storm that the National Weather Service expanded to regional offices and starting monitoring weather 25/7. Those duck hunters btw, there were hundreds of them in the sloughs and backwaters of the Mississippi and Minnesota Rivers and almost none were dressed for the conditions. When the storm began the high winds the waves kept them from being able to get to safety, many of those who tried to get back to shore drowned. The ones that took shelter and hunkered down on one of the many islands and spits of land on the river found themselves dealing with snow and freezing temperatures overnight. The death toll in Minnesota from this storm was around 50 people, half of whom were duck hunters. This same storm was responsible for the deaths of 66 sailors on three Great Lake freighters that went down.

For those of you still with me this storm was a classic “Texas Hooker” storm. This is a rare condition where a couple of things happen; the Jet Stream has to be stronger than usual. The interaction of the it over the Rocky Mountains creates an eddy of air in the Panhandle region that drops surface pressure. There also has to be a mass of cold air in Canada and a good high pressure ridge over the south-east to force that low pressure north. The results it the low pressure draws warm moist gulf air north straight into the Canadian air mass and the collision creates a serious potential for severe weather. Typically, because of the gulf air, these storms start with warm pleasant weather before the cold air rushes in. “Hookers” typically happen in the fall and spring and are responsible for many of the country’s worst spring tornado outbreaks and fall blizzards. And now you know, learning more here in 5 minutes that you will the rest of the day.

We’re not having that sort of event here today. I would hold that we could never have anything like that again in this country, the being taken by surprise part of it not the actual weather event. Today forecasting has progressed to such a degree that we would have plenty of warning should the atmosphere conspire to kick our ass again. But, not saying that we couldn’t have a storm like that again. Even with a week’s notice a storm like that would be a significant event, potentially deadly. Maybe not 50 people deadly but deadly.

Today we’re just getting a small reminder of just how volatile the weather around here can be, and why living here can be so interesting without even having to try.

Which reminds me of the curse I love “May you live in interesting times”.

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