Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Storm may have set U.S. record for low pressure reading

Barometric pressure reading of 28.20 at Bigfork, 28.22 at Orr amazed weather watchers around the country

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 10/30/10

The storm system that brought high winds, rain, and snow to the region this week, was perhaps most remarkable for something else entirely.

The storm may well enter the history books as the most …

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Storm may have set U.S. record for low pressure reading

Barometric pressure reading of 28.20 at Bigfork, 28.22 at Orr amazed weather watchers around the country

Posted

The storm system that brought high winds, rain, and snow to the region this week, was perhaps most remarkable for something else entirely.

The storm may well enter the history books as the most intense non-tropical cyclone ever recorded in the continental United States. As the eye of the storm passed over north-central and northeastern Minnesota late Tuesday, the barometric pressure dropped to a remarkable 28.20 inches of mercury at a recording station in Bigfork, in Itasca County. A reading of 28.22 was recorded at Orr, while the station in International Falls recorded 28.23.

“It would normally take a powerful hurricane to get a pressure reading that low,” said Minnesota State Climatologist Pete Boulay.

The extreme low pressure readings shattered the previous state record of 28.43 inches, which was set near Austin, during the Nov. 10, 1998, storm event. It was also much lower than the 28.95 inches recorded during the November gale that brought down the Edmund Fitzgerald back in 1975.

“What’s unclear,” said Boulay, “is whether it’s a continental U.S. record. It could be, but there’s some ambiguity in the records.”

While a 28.05 reading was recorded during the Great Ohio Blizzard on Jan. 26, 1978, Boulay said it appears that the station that recorded that record-setting low was actually in southern Ontario, rather than in the United States. If so, that could well put northern Minnesota in the weather history books— for something other than cold.

This week’s intense low created havoc across a wide swath of the country’s mid-section. Despite the fact that the storm was centered for a time over northern Minnesota, wind damage in this region was relatively light, compared to other parts of the Midwest, where winds gusted as high as 80 miles per hour.

According to Boulay, the fact that the center of the storm passed through the region probably helped reduce the winds here. “It’s like being in the eye of a hurricane,” he said.

The area still saw significant precipitation, with totals of 1-3 inches. Some areas also saw significant snow, particularly south of the Iron Range. Twig, north of Duluth, had the highest reported snow total, with nine inches reported. Duluth measured 7.4 inches at the airport.

Most of northern St. Louis County experienced only light snow or flurries and little or no snow accumulation.

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