While the bone-rattling, teeth-chattering, below-zero cold in December and the first two days of January kept area snowfalls light, the second half of January, all of February and March may be different.
New Ulm weather observer Victor Roepke recorded 14 days of below zero temperatures in December, with the lowest reading of minus 20 on Dec. 24.
On the warmer side, it was 44 on Dec. 1.
"I think most everybody is surprised by the cold. December was a long month. Later on in January, February and March when it tries to warm up, we're more likely to get bigger snow storms," said Sleepy Eye weather observer Brad Sellner. "I think the worst of the cold will be over soon. We'll still have some cold outbreaks, but not for long. ... I think we'll get the moisture we've been missing in the coming winter months."
On New Year's Eve, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast below normal temperatures for all of Minnesota through Jan. 31. Average temperatures were forecast for February and March.
The near-term forecast predicted the coldest weather since 1996 for this area on Sunday night and Monday. A gradual warming trend could create a thaw next Friday and Saturday, according to the National Weather Service (NWS).
A warmup Friday into the lower 20s is followed by another blast of severe cold. Lows of 25 below are predicted for Sunday and 20 below for Monday.
South Central College agriculture instructor Wayne Schoper said area rain last August helped push Minnesota out of a drought, according to the Palmer Drought Index. "But moisture is always a concern," Schoper said. "We'll need a soil recharge over the next few months to get us ready for planting.
(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org).