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Minnesota's Rollercoaster Weather And What It Means For Spring

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- It's cold now and about to get colder. Temperatures have dropped throughout the day Friday and that has led to icy conditions across much of the state.

The Minnesota State Patrol says there were 90 crashes between 5 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. Friday. Parts of northern and west-central Minnesota have even seen blizzard-like conditions. Ottertail and Clay counties saw a number of vehicles go off the road and travel was not recommended.

This comes just days after much of the state saw temperatures reach the 40s. John Lauritsen shows us why we're seeing this roller-coaster weather and what it means for spring.

"I was happy to walk outside on Tuesday. Not so happy with this weather right now though," said Gail Rainville of Minnetonka.

It's a sight you'll see several times throughout a Minnesota winter. Crashes and spin-outs, along with jack-knifed semis and vehicles in the ditch. That's how Friday morning was across much of the state. A section of Interstate 94 was even closed between Moorhead and Fergus Falls.

"It didn't take long for everything to ice up if it wasn't chemically treated," said Mike Griesinger.

Griesinger is with the National Weather Service. Like most of us, he enjoyed a fake spring earlier this week when temperatures reached the 40s. But here we are inching towards subzero cold, yet again. It's been a strange up and down pattern and Griesinger has a name for it.

"I would summarize it as a typical La Niña winter," Griesinger said.

He said La Niña winters happen a couple times a decade. They're driven by a ridge of high pressure over the Pacific Ocean that stretches east.

"Those times it pushed east we got into that Pacific air, those really mild temperatures. We had one good thaw in January where that happened. Once that retreats back west it opens up the Northwest flow and the Arctic," Griesinger said.

That's led to inconsistent precipitation throughout the season.

Coming off one of the first drought years on record, there are questions about what this winter's snowfall could mean for spring.

This La Niña winter has led to above average snowfall up north, average snowfall in the central part of the state, and below average snow in the southeast. More snow could mean better soil moisture in the spring. But more precipitation between now and April will be key.

"You are always most susceptible to drought when you are coming out of drought. Because you have those long term deficits baked into the system," Griesinger said. "We are still in a bit of a drought pattern."

Greisinger said that rains late last summer and fall helped get things somewhat back to normal. But the state will need more snow this winter or a lot more rain this spring to get back on track.

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