Winter Storm Big Mess

Minnesota was welcomed with another major, messy winter storm in the form of heavy snow, freezing rain, sleet, rain, and thunderstorms from Monday, January 2, to Thursday, January 5, 2023. The storm dumped more than a foot of snow throughout the Twin Cities, putting it in the top 20 for storm-total snowfall in the city. 

This was a “warm” winter storm, loosely linked to cold air and devoid of the bitter air that sometimes accompanies or follows Minnesota’s major winter storm systems. Instead, temperatures started in the 10s and 20s F. Still, they climbed through Tuesday and Wednesday, with stations in southern and eastern Minnesota reaching temperatures over 32 degrees F for a period, despite northerly winds.

This occurred over many days, with various “breaks” along the way. Low pressure traveled from the Texas panhandle through Iowa on Tuesday before stalling in Wisconsin Tuesday night and diminishing over the following 1-2 days.

“The Big Mess”

The 15 inches of snow was called “The Big Mess” by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources’ climatology branch. It was the 14th biggest snowfall event in the Twin Cities since 1884.

Snow accumulations of up to 17 inches in some metro areas slowed traffic and hampered transit 24 hours after the first flakes fell on Monday night.

The 3 Different Stages of “The Big Mess”

Phase 1: Scattered Snow and Ice

When deep moisture poured in during the first phase, a thin band of snow developed across the state’s southwestern and far southern regions on Monday, extending throughout the night in some locations. To the east of I-35, snow mingled with sleet and freezing rain, producing a moderate coating on many surfaces and extremely hazardous roadways. 

On Monday and Monday night, lighter snow and mixed precipitation extended northward into central Minnesota. However, this initial phase focused mainly on the southern three tiers of counties, where many regions got roughly a half-inch of precipitation. Snowfall of up to 8 inches was observed around Pipestone and Edgerton in southeastern Minnesota, with 1-3 inches frequent east of I-90.

Phase 2: Rapid Rates of Heavy Snowfall and Ice

The much-awaited “major event” or second phase began on Tuesday morning and continued throughout the day as an area of severe mixed precipitation and freezing rain moved north. Most southern and central Minnesota’s hardest precipitation barely lasted a few hours. Even yet, it was fairly severe, with lightning and thunder accompanying fast-building ice in far southern locations and snowfall rates up to two inches per hour in the Twin Cities and most of southern and central Minnesota. 

In some places, visibility was reduced to a tenth of a mile. In the extreme south, in the afternoon in the Twin Cities, the upper Minnesota River basin, and central Minnesota, the precipitation blitz abruptly ended. Most southern and central Minnesota had 3 to 8 inches of snow during this time, with Redwood Falls receiving the most and the Twin Cities receiving around 3-6 inches. The MSP airport recorded 6.0 inches of rain for the day.


Phase 3: Unexpected Snowfall Overnight, with Additional Snow through Wednesday Night

From Tuesday night through early Thursday, a last wave of snow was forecast to deliver light to moderate snow to parts of central and eastern Minnesota. This snow was forecast to fall between 1-3 inches Tuesday night and Wednesday. People in the Twin Cities, especially in the near-southern suburbs, awakened Wednesday to discover that the snow they had swept the night before had been completely replaced and, in some instances, had almost quadrupled. 

Several strong snow bands fell an additional 3-7 inches overnight throughout most of southern and central Minnesota, with locations around Bloomington, Burnsville, Lakeville, and Woodbury getting 7-10 inches. This was a thick, sticky snow that covered tree limbs and seemed rough and textured, as opposed to the smooth, laminar appearance of snow blankets that developed in colder circumstances.

The snow continued to fall on Wednesday, with the heaviest precipitation concentrated in the northern suburbs and central Minnesota. On Thursday morning, the snow had stopped falling across Minnesota.


Total Accumulations

72-hour snowfall forecast for Minnesota through Thursday, January 5, 2023. Higher values in certain regions may be “smoothed down” by the mapping methods, making the 12-18″ zone look smaller.

Along I-90, the southernmost parts of Minnesota usually received around a quarter-inch of ice. However, some areas received more. In contrast, most of the rest of the state had snow accumulations, with sleet and freezing rain interspersed on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Many southwestern, central, southern, and eastern Minnesota areas experienced snowfall accumulations of 8 to 15 inches, including Pipestone, Marshall, Redwood Falls, Willmar, Mankato, Northfield, St. Cloud, the Twin Cities, and portions of Duluth. Even higher amounts were either reported or suspected based on observation periods.

Far southwestern Minnesota, 13-15 inches totals were recorded at Marshall, Edgerton, and Slayton, where accumulations may have approached 18 inches in areas close east of Sioux Falls.

Over a large portion of central and eastern Minnesota, including St. Cloud, Willmar, and the Twin Cities, dozens of observers reported snow accumulations ranging from 12 to 17 inches. One observer near Lakeville reported 17.7 inches of snow, and a CoCoRaHS observer south of St. Augusta (Stearns County) reported a total of 17.5 inches.

Observers observed 12-15 inches of snow in the region south and southwest of Duluth, including Moose Lake, Barnum, and Holyoke.


Winter’s First Snowfall

While wet and heavy, the snow did not start adhering to tree branches until early on Wednesday, saving the state from the massive power outages that have happened in the past when there have been winter storms.

Until January 4, Minnesota’s five first-order climate stations recorded above-average snowfall for the season, ranging from 16% snowier than normal in International Falls to 136% snowier than usual in the Twin Cities.

Temperatures warmed enough Monday night that the snow-rich atmosphere created blizzard conditions in some areas of the state, with snowfall rates as high as an inch per hour during the overnight hours into Tuesday morning. The combination of snow and rain to form slushy, wet roads caused many people to stay home from work and school to navigate the Twin Cities safely.


Final Thoughts

“The Big Mess” might not have been an all-time record-breaking snowfall event, but it will surely be remembered as one of the more significant and disruptive storms in recent memory. The heavy wet snow was caused by a Mississippi Valley Low-Pressure System that pumped warm air into Minnesota’s cold atmosphere, resulting in unusually high snowfall. 

Because of the size of this storm, Exteriors Plus provided emergency services throughout its length, assisting homes with roof damage caused by strong winds and heavy snowfall, frozen pipes, ice dams, and other preventive measures.

The storm served as a warning that Minnesota’s winter weather can be dangerous. With the assistance of Exteriors Plus, homes experienced less damage from this large, messy winter storm by being prepared and seeking aid as soon as possible.

We’re your one-stop shop for all roofing requirements, from preventive measures to emergency services and repairs to complete replacements. Our team ensures you’ll have a safe, secure roof that will last for years to come.

We’re experienced in navigating these types of storms and can help homeowners protect their homes from the harsh winter months. 

Get in touch with us immediately and get ahead of whatever Mother Nature has in store.