MARSHALL - We'll have to wait and see if March comes in like a lion, but it appears as if February will go out like one.
Although the snow that fell this week pales in comparison to what southwest Minnesota residents are used to at this time of year and didn't really amount to much in most areas, it did manage to break up a three-and-a-half-month pattern that left the region void of any measurable snowfall.
And forecasters say that while the next system that pushes through this weekend will dump the heaviest amounts of snow north of the area, there is a good chance yet another system early next week will turn our black and brown landscape to white.
"The next significant storm system that will produce precipitation across the tri-state area will be Tuesday, late Tuesday into Wednesday," said Todd Heitkamp, warning coordination meteorologist for the National Weather Service out of Sioux Falls, S.D.
"Right now the exact track of the system is a little uncertain, but it has the potential for quite a bit of rain on the eastern side of it in southwest Minnesota, northwest Iowa and snow on the back side of it. We'll definitely have to keep a close eye on the system," he said.
That's good news for anyone who drives a tractor. While area residents basked in record highs in January and commuters have had little to worry about on the roads as far as driving conditions, fields have been devoid of significant moisture since last fall's harvest. Normally at this time of the year, fields are covered with a thick blanket of snow. No such luck for farmers so far this winter though. Farmers have said all they need is enough moisture in the fields to get their crops planted and started this spring but haven't even gotten that yet.
Heitkamp said the dry weather pattern in southwest Minnesota actually began late last summer after a wet spring.
"Since late summer we've been in a dry, tranquil weather pattern that has continued well into 2012," he said. "The pattern we're in right now is definitely more active than it's been all year long. That's typical for this time of year to go into a more active pattern. What has been atypical has been the dry pattern we've been in for so long now."
Heitkamp said the area is now being more influenced by the southern jet steam, which results in more precipitation. He said now is about the time that shift from the northern to the southern jet stream usually takes place. The 30-day outlook calls for normal precipitation and above normal temperatures, he said.
There is a 30 percent chance of snow in the area Sunday, and after a respite Monday, late Tuesday and Wednesday calls for a much better chance of snow (70 percent) and strong winds. Heitkamp said it's too early to tell just how much snow that system will leave behind.