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Long Duration Lake Enhanced Snowstorm

Duluth, MN

January 25 to 27, 2004

Here are the snow totals

27.1 inches at National Weather Service, Duluth MN
21.8 inches near my residence

Storm Summary

The variation in snow totals across the region was considerably greater than indicated by the two measurements. The lower elevations of far west Duluth received far less snow than areas in the higher elevations and farther east along the lakeshore. Persistent lake enhancement and orographic lift during the storms duration greatly boosted snow totals along and inland of the ridge crest. The opinion of this observer is that nearly half of the snow was generated off the lake. As is the case with lake enhancement however, the snow off the lake was aided by lift from the storm system. So the two are actually connected. Lower elevated sections of East Duluth also did quite well with a favorable east wind off the lake. The western end of the city extends beyond the tip of the lake and cannot get a good trajectory off the lake with near direct east wind.

Snow began late in the morning on Sunday, January 25, and continued into the overnight morning hours of early Tuesday, January 27. Periods of snow produced by the storm system and periods of snow of the lake combined to keep the snow falling with either one being more dominant at different times. The best intersection of system snow and lake snow occurred from shortly after 9 PM on the 25th to about 10 AM on the 26th. Moderate to heavy snow from both sources resulted in frequent 1+ inch per hour snowfall rates. A few breaks in accumulating snow occurred during which only very light snow or flurries fell.

The storm transitioned into primarily a lake event by late in the evening of the 26th. A strong band of snow streaming into the head of Lake Superior dominated the snow production from late evening to about 3:15 AM. Weaker bands of snow off the lake and light snow from the storm system also continued at the same time. Snowfall rates again reached 1 inch per hour. Snow diminished during the rest of the overnight hours and finally ended as diamond dust flurries by 6 AM on the 27th.

The snow from this storm was very fluffy, especially the last part of the storm, which was dominated by snow off Lake Superior. Large flakes composed of loosely connected large dendrites contributed to the fluffiness.

Records set at the National Weather Service

This storm was the third greatest single snowfall on record up to its dates of occurrence. The top spot is held by the great Halloween Blizzard of 1991 with 36.9 inches. The snow of the Halloween Blizzard actually fell from October 31st through November 2nd.

The January 2004 storm also produced 23.2 inches in 24 hours, the third greatest on record. The record is 25.4 inches from December 5 to December 6, 1950.

The 27.1 inches contributed to making January 2004 the second snowiest January on record at 42.3 inches. The record is 46.8 set in 1969. Another snowfall of 6.5 inches fell on February 1 to February 2, just missing the cut-off to break the record.

Please remember that all of the snowfall records are valid through the dates of the storm covered by this summary. No doubt that additional active snow seasons and individual big storms will occur and challenge these records.

Radar image mosaics from the National Centers for Environmental Information

12 noon CST January 25, 2004

6 PM CST january 25, 2004

12 AM CST January 26, 2004

6 AM CST January 26, 2004

12 noon CST January 26, 2004

6 PM CST January 26, 2004

9 PM CST January 26, 2004

12 AM CST January 27, 2004