Little or no snow was expected in the Twin Cities Friday as the storm forecast for much of the metro area was significantly downgraded.

But in a broad portion of Minnesota south, west and east of the metro area, it was a different, and much more dramatic, story. Owatonna has already received 9.5" overnight and Rochester 8.5, as the blizzard warning issued earlier in the day remained in full and accurate effect.

Hennepin and Ramsey counties were removed from a winter weather advisory late Thursday, and just before midnight, the only metro-area counties still in that advisory area were Washington, Dakota, Scott and Sibley.

The southern and eastern portions of the metro wouldn’t see more than 1 to 2 inches of snow Thursday night into Friday, Alexandra Keclik, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, said late Thursday. The northern and eastern section could get no more than a dusting of snow, she said.

The storm’s predicted path was shifted southward several times through the afternoon and evening, something that, as early as Wednesday, forecasters had cautioned might happen.

But much of southern Minnesota can still expect a foot of snow, with up to 18 inches in some areas, Keclik said.

The blizzard warning will remain in effect through Friday for the entire lower range of southern Minnesota, including the cities of Albert Lea, Worthington, Mankato, Rochester and Red Wing. Many school districts, including Austin, Rochester and Red Wing, called off classes for Friday.

By midnight Thursday, snow was falling hard and winds were strong in those areas, and cautions against travel intensified. Just before midnight, the Minnesota Department of Transportation’s traffic conditions map showed good travel in the metro area and extremely difficult travel, with poor visibility and slippery roads, to the south of it, where snow was falling fast.

Spinouts were reported on many southern Minnesota roads, including Hwy. 51 between the Twin Cities and Rochester, and no travel was advised in many areas.

Driving will become hazardous or impossible overnight Thursday and Friday morning in blizzard areas, especially along Interstate 90 in southern Minnesota, the Weather Service warned. More than a foot of snow is expected to fall along the interstate’s corridor.

In Wisconsin, a warning

Just before midnight, a winter storm warning was in effect for much of western Wisconsin, including Eau Claire and Black River Falls.

But in Minnesota, the line between storm intensities remained more dramatic — counties under winter weather advisories, a category less severe than warning, sat side by side with others in full blizzard mode.

Xcel says it’s prepared

In anticipation of the storm and the havoc it might have on electrical power lines, Xcel Energy said Thursday that it has crews and equipment poised to respond to any service interruptions. More than 200 Xcel crew members are ready to be tapped throughout the metro area and elsewhere in Minnesota.

The utility said its customers also can kick into preparation mode to make the best of any possible loss of electricity: sign up for power failure notifications through the “My Account” feature on the Xcel website; stay away from downed power lines and report them to Xcel at 1-800-895-1999; and keep on hand items such as a battery-powered radio or television, flashlights, batteries and a first aid kit.

Balmy no more

The storm pushed out some rare February warmth. Wednesday brought a sixth recent day of record highs in the Twin Cities, where the temperature got to 58, breaking the mark of 57 from 1930.

In St. Cloud, Wednesday’s high of 55 tied the 1961 record for that date, and in Eau Claire, Wis., a high of 57 tied a 1930 record.


Staff writer Paul Walsh contributed to this report.