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Weather service's winter is over; we know there's more to come

The history of the winter of 2010-11 will be written in white.

The meteorological winter — December, January and February — was the snowiest ever in Rochester, with 60.4 inches falling, the National Weather Service in La Crosse, Wis., announced today. That broke the previous record, from 2000-2001, by 10 inches.

While totals for Austin weren't available, it has received similar snowfall totals.

A total of 41.3 inches fell in December alone, or nearly 70 percent of the winter's total. That was the snowiest month recorded to date in Rochester, beating the 35.3 inches of December 2000.

We're becoming experts at shoveling snow, as the past three winters have all ranked in the top 10 for snowfall in Rochester.

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Climatologists had predicted a cold, snowy winter this because of the La Nina climate pattern, in which waters in the Pacific Ocean near the equator are cooler than normal. For complicated reasons, that brings more snow and storms to the Midwest.

The winter set several records, all having to do with snow:

• The average snow depthfrom Dec. 1 to Feb. 28 was 16.9 inches, the most ever. That was 11.5 inches greater than the average of 5.4 inches, and beat the previous record of 14 inches in 1978-79.

• The greatest snow depthwas 29 inches on Dec. 21, 25 and 26, which tied Jan. 25, 1982, for the most snow ever on the ground. Daily snow depth records date back to 1908.

• The total precipitationwas 5.29 inches, second only to 5.47 in 1887-88. This was 2.58 inches above the seasonal normal of 2.71 inches.

We're not done yet. Another measure of snowfall is how much falls during the entire winter, measuring from July through June.

By that measure, 61.7 inches of snow have fallen, already well above the 48.9-inch average and inching up to being in the top 10. Statistically, we're far from over.

Average March snowfall for Rochester is 9.3 inches and 4 inches for April. If Rochester gets average snowfall for this month and April, it will make this the third snowiest winter on record. Already, 1 to 3 inches is predicted for Thursday.

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But then, last year for the first time, we had no snow in March.

While white will be the color of this winter, blue won't, as in blue lips from cold. Sure, we had a low of minus 22, but that's not all that cold by Minnesota standards.

The average temperature was about 13.1 degrees, slightly below the 14.7-degree average. All three months were just a bit below normal.

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