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May snowstorm breaks 117-year-old record in Minnesota

By Brett Rathbun, AccuWeather meteorologist
May 10, 2019, 12:40:17 PM EDT


While the calendar shows it's more than six weeks into spring, Mother Nature dealt a wintry blow to Minnesota with a winter-like storm that unleashed historic snow amounts in some locations on Wednesday into Thursday.

The same storm system that brought an outbreak of severe weather to the South-Central states through the first portion of this week created enough cold air to produce a zone of heavy accumulating snow on its northwestern side.

Snow fell along a zone from Sioux Falls, South Dakota, to Duluth, Minnesota. While not accumulating, snowflakes even managed to fall in parts of Minneapolis.

Through Thursday morning, Duluth was blanketed with 10.6 inches of snow for this event and 10.9 inches total for the month, leading to a number of broken snowfall records, according to data from the National Weather Service. One spot just southwest of Duluth reported 12 inches of snow as of Thursday afternoon.


The 8.3 inches on Wednesday, May 8, set the all-time record for most snow on a single day in the month of May. The previous record was 5.5 inches, set on May 10, 1902. The burst of May snow also shattered the record for the snowiest month of May ever in Duluth, eclipsing the previous record of 8.1 total inches of snow set in May of 1954. It was also the snowiest May 8 in Duluth history as the more than 8 inches of snow surpassed the previous record for the day of 5 inches set way back in 1924. Record-keeping began in 1884.

duluth snow record


The storm continued to drop snow on Duluth on Thursday morning before gradually coming to an end.

While high temperatures rose into the 40s F in most places on Wednesday afternoon, temperatures fell into the middle 30s F by the early evening, allowing for a heavy, wet snow to fall.

Despite overall mild conditions across the region earlier on Wednesday and earlier in the week, the snow fell heavily enough to stick to all surfaces, including roadways.

Residents across the region flocked to social media to post photos and videos of the snow event.

(Twitter photo/@MSPPIO_NW)

Minnesota troopers were out on Wednesday, May 8, 2019, responding to several crashes and vehicles that slid off the road.

(AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Colorado Rockies' Nolan Arenado follows the flight of his two-run home run off San Francisco Giants starting pitcher Derek Holland in the first inning of a baseball game Thursday, May 9, 2019, in Denver.

(Twitter photo/@MSPPIO_NW)

The photographed vehicle was westbound on I-94 east of Albany when it ran off the road on Wednesday, according to Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow.

(Twitter photo/Minnesota State Patrol)

Sgt. Grabow took this photo of snow falling and sticking to roadways across Minnesota Wednesday evening. He urged drivers to slow down as troopers have responded to several crashes.

(Image/Minnesota Department of Transportation)

The map shows the road conditions across northeastern Minnesota Wednesday evening. The blue solid lines indicate roads partially covered with snow and purple dots indicate a crash.

(Twitter photo/@NWSTwinCities)

Snow piled up on Highway 25 near Lastrup, Minnesota, on Wednesday.

(Twitter photo/@NWSTwinCities)

Snow piled up on Highway 25 near Lastrup, Minnesota, on Wednesday.

(Twitter photo/@wyDOT1)

Snow continues to fall at the higher elevations in Wyoming into Thursday late morning.

(Twitter photo/@thelonegardener)

Twitter users posted a photo of the view out of her window in Minnesota on Wednesday evening.

(Twitter photo/@MnDOT)

The image shows snow near Lake Mille Lacs, Minnesota, on Thursday morning.

(Twitter photo/@MnDOTtraffic)

Snowing is falling on the Iron Range Bridge in Virginia, Minnesota, on Thursday morning.


The National Weather Service (NWS) in Duluth, Minnesota, received multiple reports of thunder and lightning with the snow in the Duluth and Cloquet areas as well as their local office.


The snow gave some residents the ability to make snowmen and enjoy its overall beauty. Others had to face snow-covered and slippery travel.

Roads across northeastern Minnesota, including in the city of Duluth, were "partially covered" with snow, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation. Numerous crashes were also reported, mostly from vehicles spinning out in the slushy road conditions.

Snow continued to fall through much of Wednesday night before ending Thursday morning. Drier conditions will return to end the week. With sunshine and highs returning into the 50s F in most areas, most areas of snow will melt by this weekend.

Snow is not uncommon across Minnesota during the month of May.

"While it isn't likely to get heavier amounts of snow during the month of May, it certainly isn't unprecedented," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Matt Rinde said.

"Five years ago on May 2, Rochester, Minnesota, received 14.5 inches of snow," Rinde said. "That area of heavier snow extended northeastward through western Wisconsin."

For the city of Duluth, Minnesota, there is about a 1-in-7 chance for snowfall of an inch or more to fall during the month of May, according to Rinde. The last time this occurred prior to Wednesday was in 2010, when 4.5 inches of snow fell on May 7.

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Significant snow fell in parts of Colorado as well. Winter storm warnings and watches were posted in and around the Boulder and Colorado Springs areas on Thursday, and a freeze watch, meaning the temperature could tumble below 32 F, was posted in Denver where many woke up to falling flakes.

Snow fell during the Colorado Rockies game on Thursday when they hosted the San Francisco Giants in Denver, though it didn't faze Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, who swatted a home run with the flakes falling. Wednesday's match-up between the two teams was postponed due to inclement weather and was rescheduled for July 15, 2019.

The snow made for a wintry scene at the University of Colorado Boulder campus on Thursday, where graduation was taking place. School officials reportedly soldiered on with commencement festivities despite the snow. Graduates started a snowball fight after arriving at their seats.

Meanwhile, some spots in Colorado piled up snow accumulations in excess of 10 inches. As of Thursday afternoon, Westcliffe topped the list with reports of 15 inches of snow, followed by 11 inches in Ward and 10 inches in Weston Pass.

Correction: A previous version of this story stated that more than 10 inches fell in Duluth, on May 8. The city received 8.3 inches on May 8, which is still a new daily record for the city, but not twice as much as the old record of 5 inches in 1924.

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