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2014: The year the weather wreaked havoc on Minnesota

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This is the first in a series of five posts discussing 2014's most impactful stories in Minnesota. It's a look at where we were, what we went through, and where we find ourselves now – with a glimpse at what to expect in 2015. Check back for the remaining four as the week goes on.

A brief survey: Who here, 13 months ago, had ever heard the term polar vortex?

It didn't take long for Minnesotans to become familiar, and the phrase has now become a symbol for the past year – one of the wackiest, weather-wise, in recent memory.

And also, maybe a sign of things to come.

Cold and snow

We had three polar vortices blow through the region in January and February, bringing brutally cold temperatures of 20-25 below zero in some places.

The first hit right as the new year began, and Gov. Mark Dayton ordered all schools in the state closed – the first time such an order had been given since 1997.

Another polar vortex hit in late January, and polar vortex 3.0 came through in February.

All that frigid air led to the ninth-coldest winter on record in the Twin Cities, with 53 days that dipped to zero degrees or below. That's more than double the average of 21 (but short of the record 68). Duluth set a record for consecutive days below zero, with 23.

The deaths of more than two dozen people were attributed to last winter's cold.

The Twin Cities also got more than 62 inches of snow last winter – more than a foot above average.

Many school districts ended up canceling classes for five days or more, and some made them up by shortening spring break or adding days to the end of the school year.

Our sense of fun remained intact however, as local meteorologists, school kids and others tried out cold weather tricks.

Another bonus: It was cold enough for visitors to see the Apostle Islands ice caves.

Summer flooding

Summer was clung to as a planned reprieve. But when it arrived, the rain came.

June was Minnesota's wettest month of the modern record, according to the state climatologist. We saw 8.03 inches of rain, far surpassing the previous record of 7.32 inches set more than 100 years ago.

The flooding caused tens of millions of dollars in damages and disrupted popular destinations.

The waters also displaced homeowners and businesses in communities all over Minnesota.

President Obama visited the state and promised federal aid.

Perhaps as a reward for a lousy first nine months, Mother Nature gave us a spectacular show of autumn colors. (Photo below courtesy of Corey VanScoyk).

Cold and snow moved in early for Thanksgiving. And after a relatively mild Christmas with little (if any) snow on the ground, we're back to winter.

S0 2014 will end the way it began – with a frigid blast of Arctic air.

What's next?

Despite our unusually cold weather this year, 2014 is on track to be the hottest year on record worldwide, CNN reports.

Scientists say it's a result of global warming – the changing climate is what's responsible for the extremes in weather (hot or cold) that are occurring more often, according to the National Climate Assessment report.

The report says climate change will continue to bring "extreme heat, heavy downpours, and flooding" to the Midwest, affecting the region's agriculture, transportation, forestry, air and water quality in a variety of ways.

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