Strong North Winds Cause Irregular Runway Use at MSP

This autumn, Minnesota has experienced unseasonably warm weather, with prevailing south winds, rather than north.  

On Monday, Mother Nature threw Minnesotans another curve ball bringing rain, sleet, and snow to the area, and high winds directly out of the north.  In fact, wind speeds at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) hovered around 20 MPH for much of the day with gusts as high as 36 MPH. 

High wind speeds are not particularly unusual or disruptive to the flow of traffic at MSP, as pilots regularly fly in these conditions.  However, the direction of the wind on Monday did reduce the number of aircraft able to land and take off at MSP during these conditions.  With north winds at those speeds, the Federal Aviation Administration’s Air Traffic Controllers were forced to use Runway 35 (from the south) for arrivals and Runway 4 (over the city of St. Paul) for departures, a very atypical configuration for any time of the year. 

As a result, Monday was the busiest day for arrivals on Runway 35 in more than five years, while Runway 4 experienced its second-most busy day for departures.

Around 1 p.m. winds shifted just enough westward to allow aircraft to take off and land on the parallel runways, 30L and 30R, a typical configuration for this time of year.

December 14 Wind Chart