No snow yet, but history shows a white Christmas still possible
Here it is, nearly the middle of December, and no snow on the ground in west central Minnesota.
That's just fine with some people, but for every person who's happy to wait for it, there's someone else, possibly a short person with a sweet, gap-toothed smile, who asks, "What will Santa do without snow?"
Not to worry. The questions could go away as soon as the middle of this coming week.
"We've got a system coming in the middle of next week that gives Willmar a good chance of a white Christmas," said Jim Taggert, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service.
In an average year, western Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas could expect to have about 10 inches of snow on the ground at this time of year, Taggert said.
The only appreciable precipitation seen around the Willmar area for the past month was a few inches of snow in mid-November, he said, and the area could be about a half foot behind its normal snowfall.
"The pattern now is a much drier pattern because most of the storms are going south of us," he said.
This has been one of the driest falls on record. The Weather Service classifies west central Minnesota as having moderate drought conditions, he said, and there's a severe drought in parts of southwestern Minnesota.
According to a report from the Minnesota State Climatology Office, there's a good chance of having some snow on the ground for Christmas, but it may not be much.
A report on the history of white Christmases in Minnesota reports a 70 percent chance of having at least 1 inch of snow on the ground in Willmar by Christmas Eve. Percentages are similar for a sampling of other communities: New London, 76 percent chance; Litchfield, 68 percent; Glenwood, 74 percent; Montevideo, 62 percent; Benson, 84 percent; and Bird Island, 69 percent.
One inch of snow will give you a white Christmas, but the chances aren't quite as good for deeper snow. Over 44 years of records, Willmar has had a 36 percent chance for at least 5 inches of snow, and just a 20 percent chance for at least 10 inches of snow.
Other communities have a similar chance of 5 inches of snow; some have an even lower chance of 10 inches.
At the Redwood Falls airport, with 54 years of record, there's a 6 percent chance of 10 inches of snow.
AccuWeather.com, a private weather forecasting service, issued a report Friday predicting a stormy week leading up to the holidays for much of the nation, including the upper Midwest.
The long-range forecast from AccuWeather discusses the likelihood of several storms moving out of the Pacific Ocean and across the country in the week before Christmas.
They are expected to pick up moisture from the Gulf of Mexico and move into the Midwest and Northeast. There are no predictions yet of what track the storms might take.