Dear Paul

The Twin Cities weatherman on outdoor stadiums, ideal marathon temps, and tornadoes in the city

Now that the Minnesota Gophers have their outdoor stadium, and the Twins are about to, it begs the question—are we insane? Didn’t we build indoor stadiums because, well, we live in freezing Minnesota? Yes, we are flirting with mass insanity. The Land of 10,000 Skyways is about to enjoy sports the way it should: at the total mercy of the elements. Yet winter, on average, has shrunk by a week or two since 1980: Spring comes earlier, falls lingers. Most, but not all, games should be quite comfortable. Think of any harsh Canadian fronts as a natural form of ticket insurance—those seats will be scalped for far less.

I’m running the Twin Cities Marathon this month and hoping for great weather. But what is the ideal weather for a long run like this? My wife, Laurie, is a three-time marathoner and has strong opinions about the weather. She favors 60s, low humidity, and no bright sunshine, which can leave her feeling lethargic. Light winds are a huge plus, particularly, of course, a tail wind. The worst weather? Eighty-degree heat and high humidity, which are far more debilitating than a rainstorm. The odds of that are slim, but not zero.

I was shocked to see a tornado hit south Minneapolis in August. Aren’t direct hits on downtowns rare? Why no warning? Let’s banish this urban legend once and for all: Tornadoes aren’t deterred by a few high-rises. In recent years, downtown Miami, Nashville, Little Rock, and Salt Lake City have been struck. Oklahoma City has been hit 123 times since 1890! Minneapolis’s August 19 tornado was highly unusual: little thunder, lightning, or hail—the kind of brief twister found in a hurricane’s spiral bands, the result of strong “shear” (changing wind speed and direction with altitude). No watches or warnings were in effect when it formed, underscoring a sobering reality: Doppler works best on the big tornadoes; little twisters often get lost in the sauce.

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