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"Slopmageddon" (mostly rain/sleet for MSP, 2-3" snow Wed. AM in metro, 12-18" up north)

Posted by: Paul Douglas Updated: February 28, 2012 - 10:33 AM

 

Tuesday Update. This is one tough forecast. In fact, I can't remember a winter storm this fickle since in the last 3 years. Then again, we've had precious few "storms" this winter to talk about; a little over 4" back in early December, that's pretty much it. And this "storm" sums up our sorry winter for snow-lovers. La Nina, La Schmeena! Temperatures since December 1: almost 8 degrees warmer than average, and this mild bias is nudging storms farther north than usual for late February. The maps look more like late March, and the next system coming in today and Wednesday looks like an early spring storm, with a mix of snow, sleet (ice pellets) and rain. We went 4 days/row with nearly every computer run insisting precipitation would be mostly-snow. And then yesterday, like flicking on a light switch, models pushed the heaviest bands of snow into central and northern Minnesota, a surge of drier (warmer) air - the dreaded "dry tongue" sweeping across the southern third of Minnesota into the Twin Cities. I suspect mostly rain and sleet from late afternoon through much of tonight, but precipitation may end as 1-3" of slushy snow Wednesday morning, with as much as 4-5" snow possible far north metro.

 

Storm Headlines:

- This looks like mainly rain for the metro area, a little snow possible at the beginning of the storm today, but most of the 1" of precipitaton forecast to fall on MSP will fall as a cold rain, with a little sleet mixed in at times. Just north/west of the metro I expect more ice and snow. A difference of 20-30 miles will make a huge difference in snowfall amounts. St. Cloud and the Mille Lacs area could still pick up 6"+ or more of snow. It will be that close.

- Precipitation will start as a little snow or sleet today, but quickly change to a cold rain Tuesday afternoon or evening. Surface temperatures should be above 32 F. in the metro Tuesday afternoon, possibly reaching 33 or 34 F, keeping most major roads/freeways wet. Computer models show enough warm air aloft (temperatures > 32 F. about 4,000 to 6,000 feet above the ground) for a period of significant rain or sleet Tuesday night, at the height of the storm. This will keep final snowfall amounts down. For the record, we missed a major snowfall by 1-3 F. It was that close.

- A little slush may fall on the MSP metro area before any changeover, but north/west of a line from Willmar and Monticello to Elk River and Cambridge precipitation may fall as mostly snow. Parts of central Minnesota may see closer to 4-8" snow on Tuesday.

- I could see some big variations just across the metro: an inch of slush southern suburbs, but over 2-4" of sloppy, icy snow over the northern metro, from Elk River to Anoka, Ham Lake and White Bear Lake.

- Forget the calendar; this will be a typical storm for late March. Temperatures hold at or above freezing for much of the storm, so I expect metro freeways to be in fairly good shape. But if you're driving west on I-94 or 10 conditions will get worse as you approach Monticello and St. Cloud. Roads in the Alexandria area may become quite treacherous.

- If the changeover to sleet/rain does not take place, then the MSP metro could still pick up 4-10", but I think this is unlikely, the odds less than 1 in 4.

- A changeover from rain back to wet snow is likely late Tuesday night into Wednesday morning, but as dry air surges into southern Minnesota (the dreaded "dry tongue") snow should quickly taper to flurries after lunch on Wednesday. I could see another 1-3" on Wednesday, at the tail-end of the storm.

- Winter Storm Warnings are in effect for the Twin Cities (and much of Minnesota) for a mix of snow, ice and rain creating rough travel conditions. This may be overkill (in my humble opinion) with precipitation falling as mostly rain, but roads could be messy for Wednesday morning's commute. If we do see a few hours of freezing rain (glaze ice) secondary roads and bridges (north/west of the metro) could become icy between 2 pm and 8 pm Tuesday, but surface temperatures from 30-34 F. should mean mainly wet/slushy roads for treated roads and freeways.

- Blizzard Watches and Warnings are posted for much of western Minnesota, where no changeover to ice is expected, and travel will become treacherous during the day on Tuesday with snow falling at the rate of 1-2"/hour at times.

- Over a foot of snow, maybe as much as 18", may still accumulate from near Morris and Alexandria to Little Falls, Brainerd and the Duluth area.

 

Advisories And Warnings. The Winter Storm Watch has been upgraded to a Winter Storm Warning for most of Minnesota, including the Twin Cities. Blizzard Watches have been upgraded to Blizzard Warnings for a small portion of west central MN, including Morris and Alexandria, where white-out conditions are expected on Tuesday, snow falling at the rate of 1-2"/hour at times. Map courtesy of the local Twin Cities National Weather Service. Advisories are posted for far southern MN, where a rapid changeover to rain is likely today.

 

Metro Outlook: Cold Rain, Then 1-3" Wednesday Slush. Wow. The 12z NAM outlook still shows some 12-16" amounts around Brainerd. I have a hunch this upcoming weekend will be the best weekend of the entire winter for snowmobiling and cross-country skiing in the Brainerd Lakes area. Finally, a big pile of snow for winter enthusiasts. A changeover to sleet/rain will bring amounts way down in the metro, although my confidence level with this system is still very low. The models keep yo-yoing back and forth. Not good.

 

GFS: Massive Northward Shift. Yesterday I brought up my concerns about the models trending north, pushing the dry slot (dry tongue) into southern Minnesota. On Monday that trend accelerated, and now the GFS (06z run) pushes the heaviest snow  from Brainerd to Duluth, anywhere from 12-18" snow. Note a tight snowfall gradient across the metro, 1" south metro, maybe 3-6" north metro. I think the models have the right idea, but I still don't see the continuity and agreement among models I'd like to see with precipitation on our doorstep.

 

 

Paul's Star Tribune Outlook for the Twin Cities and all of Minnesota:

 

TODAY: Winter Storm Warning (Blizzard Warnings west central MN). A little snowy slush possible (up to 1" or so), then a rapid changeover to mostly rain by mid or late afternoon. Winds: SE 10-20. High: 34

 

TUESDAY NIGHT: Any sleet or freezing rain changes to mostly rain from the metro on south. Thunder possible with rain, heavy at times. Low: 31 (icing may be significant outside the immediate metro area).

 

WEDNESDAY: Wet snow tapers, 1-3" more snow possible, mainly morning hours. High: 34 (Major roads probably wet).

 

THURSDAY: Sunny start, clouds late. Low: 22. High: 35

 

FRIDAY: Small chance of snow (the brunt of the storm probably passes east of Minnesota). Low: 26. High: 34

 

SATURDAY: Mostly cloudy, few flurries possible. Low: 21. High: 31

 

SUNDAY: Another clipper - flakes in the air. Low: 15. High: 27

 

MONDAY: More sun, warming up again. Low: 20. High: 38

 

* Temperatures may soar into the upper 40s to mid 50s by Tuesday/Wednesday of next week.

 

 

Slopmageddon

This storm kind of sums up our sorry winter. It doesn't want to snow here. 4th warmest winter for the USA in 117 years; 8 degrees above average at MSP since December 1. The storm track looks like something out of late March.

For the last few days the lack of deep, cold air overhead has been gnawing at me. To get serious snow you need Gulf moisture AND a steady supply of 20-degree air. Monday I mentioned a trend toward a more northerly track, possibly pushing the dreaded "dry tongue" into southern Minnesota, cutting down on snowfall amounts. 6-12" was more prayer than forecast.

Recent computer runs confirm my suspicion: too dry and probably too warm aloft by tonight for all snow. In fact any wet snow will quickly change to ice pellets, then rain by Tuesday evening. You may even hear a growl of thunder tonight, before this slop-fest ends as an inch or two of slushy snow Wednesday.

The far north metro has the best chance of plowable snow (2-4"), while southern 'burbs may only see an inch or two. Meanwhile, a foot of snow falls from Brainerd to Duluth.

No alibis or excuses. Weather models have their limits. No need for shampoo, now that I've pulled out fistfuls of hair. What a "winter".

 

An Early Spring? No matter how much snow and ice falls Tuesday PM into Wednesday, it would appear that a fairly rapid melt-down is likely in the next week or two. Mid 50s are predicted by March 6, even a shot at 60 the second weekend of March. Data courtesy of NOAA, map from Ham Weather.

 

Money has never made man happy, nor will it, there is nothing in its nature to produce happiness. The more of it one has the more one wants.” – Benjamin Franklin

 

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