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Thunderblizzard

Duluth, MN

March 1 to 2, 2007


This powerhouse storm produced heavy snow, very strong winds, and frequent thunder. The storm produced a huge swath of snow and ice from the central plains into the Upper Midwest and Western Great Lakes. To the south and east, the storm produced an extensive area of rain, thunderstorms, and severe weather which affected most of the south-central and eastern parts of the country.

Blizzard conditions occurred in two main periods. The first began around midnight on the 1st of March then let up at 10 AM. Very light snow or flurries continued into the early afternoon. But this was just a teaser.

Now the main attraction. Heavy snow moved back into the area from 2 PM to 2:30 PM and winds started increasing in speed. Impressive multiple, convective bands of snow rotated west and northwest through the city and the head of Lake Superior.

Then at 5:50 PM came every snow lover's ultimate dream, thunder! In 20 minutes from 5:50 PM to 6:10 PM, thunder and lightning occurred 12 times. This, of course, assumes that I kept proper count while bouncing up and down like a pogo stick filled with rocket fuel.

Heavy snow, periods of thunder, winds gusting over 60 mph, and visibility near zero continued through midnight. The visibility was so low that a garage, just on the other side of the driveway from my apartment building, was hardly visible except for a faint light hanging at the corner.

At one time when walking through the apartment development, a big gust of wind cut my visibility zero. I lost my directional orientation. At the same time a faint flash of lightning, then a brief muffled crack of thunder. YES! It doesn't get much better than this!

Snow fell 1 to 2 inches per hour. The snowfall rates were impressive considering the snow was so dense that it was like walking on sand.

Conditions began improving (that depends on your perspective) from midnight to 3 AM. Winds lowered but still remained strong enough to support blizzard conditions. By daybreak of the next day, conditions were much calmer with only occasional flurries and light winds. Additional light accumulating snow redeveloped by 8:30 AM and continued to 7 PM. Flurries lingered a little past midnight.

As is common with east component winds the snow received a boost from orographic lift, convergence at the head of Lake Superior, and enhancement off the lake. Lake enhancement appeared to be more of a contributor to the light snow that fell during the overnight and daytime on the 2nd day of the storm. Difficult to discern the lake contribution during the peak of the storm with so much widespread heavy snow on the radar.


Storm totals:
National Weather Service 19.8 inches
Personal total 19.0 inches

Peak measured winds:
66 mph Duluth's Sky Harbor Airport
56 mph Duluth International Airport

The winds were likely higher at my location since it was located along the crest of the ridge. Winds from above 700 feet off of the lake can really rip across the ridge.


Radar images from the National Centers for Environmental Information

Radar mosaic - 11 AM CST March 1, 2007


Radar mosaic - 12 Midnight CST March 2, 2007



Surface map from the National Weather Service Weather Prediction Center
6 PM CST, March 1, 2007