Going out on a wet note in 2019

Luther Opjorden, a National Weather Service observer at a station he keeps in his backyard just outside of Milan, Minnesota, has emptied his rain gauge again and again as 2019 lives up to its wet reputation to the bitter end.

Minnesota Department of Transportation workers clear snow from U.S. Highway 71 during a Feb. 26 snow event. This weekend's forecast is for a mix of rain, sleet and snow, as 2019 lives up to its reputation as one of the region's wettest years. Erica Dischino / West Central Tribune file photo

MILAN — A wintry mix of rain, sleet and snow is forecast for this final weekend of the year, and it’s only appropriate.

The weather in 2019 has been defined by wet conditions, according to Luther Opjorden of Milan. He maintains what is now a 126-year family tradition of recording the weather for the National Weather Service at a station he keeps in his backyard just outside of Milan.

“The rainfall has been the main thing this year,” said Opjorden as he looked over his 2019 weather records. As of Friday, he had tallied up 36.60 inches of precipitation for the year.

That’s well above normal, but not quite record-breaking. He only had to look back to 1995, when he emptied 39.2 inches of precipitation from his rain gauge.

This year’s precipitation comes as part of a longer-term wet cycle that has saturated soils and put water levels in rivers and lakes well above historical norms for this time of year.


The year started wet. The winter of 2018-19 brought 78 inches of snow, according to his records. Almost half of it came on the tail end of the snow season. There was 14 inches of snow recorded in March and another 20.5 inches of snow in April. The final snow came in a three-day storm, running April 10, 11 and 12.

Relatively cool temperatures in March and April slowed the snow melt, and spared the region from what could have been devastating flooding, Opjorden said.

Still, the wet conditions persisted. He poured five inches of rain from his rain gauge in May.

Overall, the region’s weather in 2019 was cooler and wetter than normal, and that was the case across the state, according to the Minnesota State Climatology Office. The coldest days were Jan. 30 and Jan. 31, when lows of minus 33 and minus 31 were recorded at the Milan station.

Bone chilling, but it’s been worse. Opjorden trekked out to his weather station on Dec. 19, 1983, to find the mercury tanked at minus 35.

The mercury did not climb to new heights this year. The hottest day in 2019 came on July 19 with a 94-degree high. Luther Opjorden’s father, Torfinn, knew worse. He sauntered out to the weather station on July 21, 1934, to witness a 113-degree reading, the highest temperature recorded by the three generations of family members who have kept this tradition.

Do the current, wet conditions portend lots of snow to come? Opjorden leaves the forecasting to the National Weather Service. His records show some winters with the highest snow totals have come in recent years. The snow season of 2010-11 tops the list with 95 inches total, followed by 92 inches in the winter of 1996-97.


As of Friday, Luther Opjorden has poured out 36.60 inches of precipitation from the weather station rain gauge outside of Milan this year, which is well above normal but not record-breaking. He has maintained a 126-year family tradition of recording the weather for the National Weather Service. He is shown in a January 2019 file photo. Tom Cherveny / West Central Tribune file photo

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