Hockey Canada

Rain on a wedding day? Whatever, Alanis. We have a whiteout blizzard


Twenty years after she first annoyed hair-splitters and grammar nerds with “Ironic,” Alanis Morissette conceded there is, in fact, nothing ironic about rain on your wedding day.

Your junior high English teacher can finally stand down, as the Winnipeg Jets have redefined irony in a manner unique to a professional hockey team that takes no shortage of pride in playing in a city that endures one of the most highly variable climates on the planet.

Winnipeg endures floods. Winnipeg endures cold. Winnipeg endures seasonal infestations from yellowjacket wasps, several benign mosquito species, at least  one potentially dangerous skeeter, aphids, cankerworms, forest-tent caterpillars and if the gods are really angry, as they were last spring, the silk-spinning beasties known as elm spanworms.

But what Winnipeg is really famous for is winter. Sure, Edmonton is colder  on a  year-round basis  and every other large Canadian city, with the exception of Vancouver,  receives more annual snowfall  than the Manitoba capital.

Yet the length of Winnipeg’s deep freeze and the persistence of the snow that actually falls here makes us synonymous with winter and the blizzards that envelop the city every several years.

Niko Heiligman, of Aachen, Germany, and Lea Stimpel walk along the Mississippi River in downtown Minneapolis during a snow storm on Saturday, April 14, 2018. The National Weather Service predicts 9 to 15 inches of snow across a large swath of southern Minnesota including the Twin Cities before it’s all over. (The Associated Press/Steve Karnowski)

During the first two games of the Winnipeg Jets’ opening round playoff series against the Minnesota Wild, the club implored its fans to envelop Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg’s famous whiteout, the all-white dress code that evokes a seasonal meteorological disturbance we mercifully did not experience this spring.

It’s safe to say Winnipeg Jets fans responded to the call.

But when the club tried to venture south into Minnesota for Game 3 of the series, an actual whiteout — perhaps the heaviest April snowfall in the modern history of the Twin Cities — prevented the team’s chartered jet from landing at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport.

That in itself is remarkable, as MSP is a lot like Richardson International Airport. Airports in Winnipeg and Minneapolis are hardened for the highly variable climate in the centre of this continent and are adept at clearing snow.

Unable to land in the Twin Cities, the Jets headed for Duluth, the Minnesota city at the southwestern edge of Lake Superior. 

Duluth is an amiable college town with no fewer than 10 craft breweries and one artisanal distillery, Vikre, that produces no fewer than three types of gin, two varieties of aquavit, one kind of vodka and one whiskey. 

Luckily for the Jets and their fans, the team remained on the tarmac inside their plane and went nowhere near downtown Duluth or that distillery.

After two hours of immobility unknown to the Jets since the days when Sergei Bautin played defence, it became clear the storm in Minneapolis-St. Paul would not abate. The Jets headed back to Winnipeg from Duluth and will make another attempt to venture into enemy territory on game day.

Conditions on Interstate 94 deteriorated on the approach to the Twin Cities Saturday. (Bartley Kives/CBC)

The U.S. National Weather Service used the term “historic” to describe a blizzard that deposited 35 centimetres of snow on the Twin Cities by Saturday evening.

That’s approaching the blizzard of 1983, which piled enough snow on top of the old Metrodome to cause the inflatable roof on the old Minneapolis barn to collapse.

This weekend’s blizzard may wind up being the worst to ever hit the Twin Cities in April, at least since the National Weather Service started keeping modern records in 1891.

The heaviest Minneapolis-St. Paul snowfall of all took place during the Halloween blizzard of 1991, when 72 centimetres of snow fell on the Twin Cities.

To place that storm in context, the April 1997 Red River Valley blizzard, which led to the flood of the century, only dropped about 50 centimetres of snow on Winnipeg.

The April 1983 Minnesota blizzard, which deflated the Metrodome, maxed out at 55 centimetres.

By now, you probably know where this is going: While Winnipeg may be the home of the metaphorical, pro-sports whiteout, Minneapolis-St. Paul beats the Manitoba capital when it comes to actual whiteouts.

Historically, the severity of the worst southern-Minnesota snowstorms has exceeded that of their southern-Manitoba counterparts.

As well, Minneapolis-St. Paul also gets a wee bit more snow than Winnipeg during a normal year, although the edge is not significant. The Twin Cities receive an average of 115 centimetres of snow a year, vs. 114 centimetres, on average, in Winnipeg.

Jets winger Patrik Laine arrived at the Winnipeg James Armstrong Richardson International Airport on Saturday to fly to Minneapolis-St. Paul. He and his teammates didn’t get there. (Wendy Buelow/CBC)

So what does this mean today? In Minneapolis-St. Paul, where 10 more centimetres of snow are expected to fall on Sunday, much of the populace has been warned to stay put.

Minnesota’s Department of Transportation lists every major highway in the Twin Cities as covered in snow. Hundreds of motor-vehicle collisions were reported across the region on Saturday alone.

Many churches have cancelled their Sunday morning services, the Minneapolis-Star Tribune reported Saturday evening. The Minnesota Twins will not be playing the Chicago White Sox at a snow-covered Target Field.

Given the receding rate of snowfall, the full reopening of Minneapolis-St. Paul airport is not just possible but probable. One runway was clear on Saturday evening, according to the Star-Tribune

While the Winnipeg Jets have given up on the idea of a morning, game-day skate, they have optimistically called a 3:15 p.m. press conference Sunday for Xcel Energy Centre. It appears the NHL playoff show will go on.

The ability of many Minnesota Wild fans to attend that game, however, is questionable, given the state of the regional highways. That means the prospect of something less than a capacity crowd on Sunday evening, despite a sellout.

In other words, Minnesota’s whiteout may affect the volume of the home crowd’s support as well as the visiting team’s preparation.

The CBC’s Bartley Kives filed this analysis from St. Cloud, Minn. 



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April 16, 2018

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