North Shore Ice Storm: March 23-24 2009
A vigorous area of low pressure moved from western Nebraska on March 22 to Sioux Falls South Dakota by the morning of March 23. An area of moderate rain mixed at times with snow marched across Minnesota out ahead of this low pressure. Cold, dry air was entrenched over the Arrowhead associated with a very strong area of high pressure that was over southern Hudson Bay on March 23rd. The area of moderate rain reached Northeast Minnesota after midnight on March 23rd. The surface air was warm enough in places like Ely and Hibbing to have only minor accumulations of ice. However, along the North Shore, the surface air temperatures remained below freezing during the day of March 23. Moderate rain continued through the day and tapered off by the early morning hours of March 24th. Two day precipitation totals include .91 inches at Grand Marias and 1.94 inches at Duluth. The .91 inches at Grand Marias was all freezing rain.
As the ice began to build up on March 23, power outages began as tree branches snapped and downed power lines. Some of the places hardest hit were Two Harbors, Finland, and Grand Marias. 2,000 people were without power in Lake County. Spectacular wintry scenes greeted residents in towns along Highway 61 north of Duluth. The crashing sounds of tree branches could be heard in the woods at Wolf Ridge Environmental Learning Center.
One unusual aspect of this storm was the amount of ice that accumulated near the shore of Lake Superior as photographs from Split Rock Lighthouse can attest. In past ice storm events in the Arrowhead, ice amounts were much less near the shore due to the warmer waters of the great lake. Despite the fact that the winds were from the east or "off the lake" the temperature of the lake was cold enough to not warm the air along the shore. Indeed, ice coverage was significant in western Lake Superior during on March 23.
Listed below are local storm reports and summaries from the National Weather Service regarding the ice storm
WEATHER SUMMARY FOR MINNESOTA NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE DULUTH MN 1115 AM CDT TUE MAR 24 2009 ...FLOOD WARNINGS FOR WESTERN AND CENTRAL MINNESOTA FOR RIVER FLOODING... ...WINTER WEATHER ADVISORIES AND WATCHES FOR NORTHERN MINNESOTA... ...ICE STORM WARNING FOR THE ARROWHEAD THROUGH WEDNESDAY MORNING... A MASSIVE STORM SYSTEM CONTINUED TO AFFECT THE STATE THIS MORNING... AND WILL CONTINUE TO DO SO THROUGH WEDNESDAY AS IT SLOWLY PROGRESSES THROUGH THE STATE. RAIN WAS REPORTED IN FAR SOUTHEAST MINNESOTA...WITH FREEZING RAIN STILL FALLING ACROSS THE FAR NORTHEAST THROUGH MID MORNING. ICE ACCUMULATIONS TOTALED AROUND A HALF INCH IN PARTS OF THE ARROWHEAD. ELSEWHERE AROUND THE STATE...MAINLY OVERCAST SKIES WERE OBSERVED WITH TEMPERATURES RANGING FROM NEAR 30 IN THE NORTHEAST...TO AROUND 50 IN THE SOUTHEAST. TEMPERATURES HAVE REMAINED NEARLY STEADY SINCE EARLY THIS MORNING. AS THE LOW MOVES NORTHEASTWARD THROUGH THE STATE...INTERMITTENT RAIN SHOWERS WITH AN ISOLATED THUNDERSTORM CAN BE EXPECTED. TEMPERATURES WILL REMAIN BELOW FREEZING IN PARTS OF THE ARROWHEAD THROUGH WEDNESDAY MORNING...PROLONGING THE FREEZING RAIN THREAT. COLD AIR WILL BEGIN FILTERING IN BEHIND THE LOW...CHANGING RAIN OVER TO SNOW FROM WEST TO EAST THROUGH THE REST OF MINNESOTA BEGINNING THIS EVENING. WINTER WEATHER STATEMENTS ARE IN EFFECT ACROSS THE FAR NORTH FOR THIS EVENING THROUGH WEDNESDAY FOR POTENTIAL SIGNIFICANT ACCUMULATIONS OF SNOW. SNOW WILL TAPER TO FLURRIES BY EARLY THURSDAY MORNING...AS HIGH PRESSURE BEGINS TO MOVE INTO THE REGION. HIGH TEMPERATURES THIS AFTERNOON WILL RANGE FROM THE LOW 30S ACROSS THE ARROWHEAD TO THE LOW 50S IN THE SOUTH. OVERNIGHT LOWS WILL RANGE FROM THE MID 20S NORTH TO MID 30S SOUTH. HIGHS WEDNESDAY WILL TOP OUT IN THE MID 30S TO LOW 40S.