Austin shatters May snow record

Published 11:52 am Thursday, May 2, 2013

Mike Gregg trudges through the snow Thursday morning to walk his dog Jake. Heavy, wet snow impacted driving and all-around travel abruptly interrupting spring. -- Eric Johnson

Mike Gregg trudges through the snow Thursday morning to walk his dog, Jake. Heavy, wet snow impacted driving and all-around travel and interrupting spring. — Eric Johnson

For the first time ever on May 2, Austin has measurable snowfall, according to the National Weather Service in La Crosse, Wis.

But “measurable” is hardly the right word. As of 8 a.m., Austin had been blanketed with 9 inches of heavy, wet snow. Without a doubt, Minnesota is shattering snowfall records. The next comparable May snowfall record is 3 inches, which fell on May 8, 1938, according to NWS records.

“This will probably be the greatest snowfall record ever in the state of Minnesota for the month of May,” said NWS meteorologist Stu Ireland.

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And after more rainfall today, the snow could change back to snow tonight. Ireland said there could be another couple inches of accumulation.

More than 100 Mower County residents reported power outages to area utilities companies Thursday morning. Austin Utilities officials said about a half-dozen reports of power outages had come in, including 12 homes without power in southwest Austin, but no main substations or feeders were affected by the snowstorm.

Other areas of southern Minnesota were hit much harder by the snowfall, however. Thus far, Albert Lea, Dodge Center and Wabasha have reported power outages. Dodge Center had been blasted by snow harder than any area of the state with 15.4 inches of snow as of this morning, according to the NWS.

All school districts in Mower County, including Riverland Community College, announced closings Thursday in response to weather conditions, with many after-school activities also canceled for Austin Public Schools, Pacelli Catholic and other districts.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation was advising no travel on I-90 from Albert Lea east past Rochester or on state highways in the area. The area or worst travel conditions extended from Albert Lea and Austin east and northeast to the Mississippi River. Austin Police Chief Brian Krueger said officers had taken several reports of cars stuck in the ditch as well. City officials said Austin will not have a snow emergency.

As of 5:30 a.m., several vehicles were reported to have spun out on I-90 in the Albert Lea area. The NWS warning said road temperatures had fallen into the low 30s, allowing snow to build up in driving lanes.

The snow may take a while to melt, as the temperature will reach about 35 degrees on Thursday and 40 on Friday. Ireland said it could be later this weekend before all the snow melts, and the precipitation could cause rivers to rise and perhaps some flooding.

A winter storm advisory will remain in effect throughout Thursday for Mower, Olmsted, Fillmore and Wabasha. High temperature for Friday may hover around 40 degrees.

Forecasted temperatures for Monday and Tuesday have been reduced from upper to lower 60s. NWS forecasts rain throughout the weekend.