Thundersnow in MN

RE: Una’s column

Lisa H. needs to pay more attention. I just verified with my uncle in Minneapolis that the twin cities just had a spot of thundersnow in early January.

Bonus: RealAudio from Minnesota Public Radio interview with a guy who studies thundersnow. From 11/2003.

Betcha never thought you’d get corroboration on thundersnow from a guy in central Alabama, didja?

In March of 1993, a freak snowstorm hit the southeastern U.S. In Alabama, where I live, we got more than a foot of snow. During the storm, we experienced both thunder and lightning.

In defense of Lisa H., her question was asked quite a bit before that time - in January of 2001. You couldn’t know that because we don’t often list the date we received the query. :slight_smile:

I also experienced thundersnow in Nashville. That’s been about twenty years and I don’t recall how much snow we got, but we did have thunder and lightening while it was snowing. Until that moment, I didn’t know there was such a thing. I think Nashville’s lakes are man-made and we are a little hilly but not mountainous.

I’ve encountered thundersnow twice. Central Ohio in 1995, and this year, in a northern suburb of Detroit, just before the holidays. Glad to know it’s can really happen.

Wow. Great turnaround time :smiley:

Anyhow, as my uncle told me and the MPR clip verifies, thundersnow is more common up around Duluth but is far from unheard of in the twin cities area.

And as long as we’re all sharing experiences, I’ve seen it quite a few times actually. Once or twice in the DC area, and O(once a year) since I came to New Haven, CT.

Hmphf. Cecil gets in around 20 reasonable questions each week, after we discard the spam and nonsense (“Does my boyfriend still love me?”)… and we try to respond to the people who ask questions already answered by Cecil, Staff Reports,,, the dictionary, etc. Then we’ve got around 20 potential questions each week, give or take half a dozen. Cecil answers one and Staff answers one, sometimes two, per week.

That leaves a large backlog. When the SDSAB get bored, they look through the old questions – this one was asked before Una so brilliantly joined the SDSAB. So, old questions aren’t lost and don’t fade away. They just sit there, hopeful.

That’s a beautiful description Dex. Why am I picturing a stop action movie with Burl Ives as a snowman talking about Cecil, the “Island of Lost Questions” and the Abominable Troll? (::deep prospector voice:: Trolls bounce! ::/dpv:: ). Oh, let’s add Una the Elf. (“I don’t want to make toys. I want to work evaluating coal fired power plants around the world.”)*

Regarding Lisa’s question and Una’s response, just last November I heard some thundersnow in a northwest Twin Cities suburb. It may have been the first time I’ve ever heard thunder during snow, at least it’s uncommon enough to have been memorable. (But if it wasn’t the first time, then previous times would not have been memorable… :confused: I’ve really got to stop thinking so hard. :smack: )

  • I hope I at least got this somewhat close.

Another person that has experienced thundersnow chiming in…in of all places, Southern California.

I was golfing with a coworker at Shandin Hills GC, in San Bernardino and it started snowing (can’t remember the date, but it was during winter season…or possibly November, in the early 90s) while were playing the 8th hole. We tried putting on the green and the snow started to stick on to our golf balls. Amused, we thought about playing the ninth hole and we agreed to play it and then kick back in the clubhouse afterwards to see if it would let up and melt. As we teed up and hit our first shots, it began to snow heavily (about 100 yards visibility) and then a flash of light surrounded us with a 3 second delay before the thunder. Thinking better of it, we decided to head on towards the clubhouse. We didn’t even waste time looking for the balls in the snow, which was about a half inch deep by then. During that time another 3 strokes of lightning hit, one of them that had less than a one second delay…somewhere on the course!

One in New Jersey early Saturday morning, December 2000. I had just gotten up, listening the the news, when suddenly there was a huge “BANG” and the sky lit up. I thought a plane had exploded, an electrical transformer had blow, or someone had fired a gun. Turns out it was thundersnow.

I’ll confirm that that happened too. It definitely surprised me when I saw lightning in January.

Last night (Feb. 10, 2005), we had a storm with thundersnow come through Maine. The circumstances that caused the “strong dynamic updrafts of air” were different than the three outlined in the original report.

According to our local meteorologist, we had a cold upper-level low, where the upper air temperatures were around -25F. Compared to that, the ground level air temperature of 20-30F was very warm. The end result was several bright flashes, followed by a very muted thunder roll. Again, according to our local weather reports, snow is a very good sound muffler, so thunder is only heard within a mile or so of the lightning.

And yes, we did get a significant amount of snow (around 2 feet). However, it was widespread, not an isolated band.

The night of the first, actually. It was more ice (freezing rain) than snow at MSP. We stopped at the Conoco just south of Forest Lake (the 97/23 exit) to scrape sheets of ice off the headlights of my car because we could barely see anymore. It took nearly four hours to get home (Pine County, less than 80 miles). We had giant flakes of puffy snow up here, but we lacked the thunder and lightning, which was a bit of a disappointment.

I love thunderstorms, so this was a rare treat. I’ve lived in MN damn near my whole life and I don’t remember ever seeing anything like that, not in January. Very cool.

Had a thundersnow event last night while on the chairlift at Swiss Valley Ski Area in Jones, MI. It had been raining heavily and had turned into snow. Shortly after the snow started and I was on the lift, the entire sky lit up purple followed by a long rumbling thunder. It only happened that one time. I wonder what would have happened if the lightning had hit the chairlift?


Sorry about not having a cite. I was recently watching a show on "mega-lightning” (Discovery Science Channel?). These are bolts of positive lightning that begin ~60 miles up and travel through the cloud to ground. They are many times more powerful than “normal” lightning and can burn holes in airplanes.

The comment was made that most of the thunder in snow storms was from these very powerful discharges.


As an interesting bump, just this Friday on I-80 to the East of Park City, Utah, I encountered a single flash and thunder during a mini-blizzard. The person riding with me told me it was “impossible” and that “it must have been the Air Force testing something, or a meteor”. Needless to say, he was an idiot.