Weather watchers have their eyes on a weekend storm system that may bring the first snowfall of the season totaling 6 inches or more to the Twin Cities and a large swath of Minnesota. Forecasters at the National Weather Service are on alert, too.
“We have a very good chance of heavy snow,” said meteorologist Todd Krause of the Weather Service’s Chanhassen office. But just where that will be remained unclear Friday, with the storm still hundreds of miles to the west.
A winter storm watch covering 23 counties in Minnesota and eight in west-central Wisconsin was issued Friday before the storm, which is expected to arrive Sunday afternoon and bring heavy wet snow and high winds before tapering off Monday afternoon. The watch could be expanded to include more counties later Friday when the storm track becomes more clear, Krause said.
For now, the heaviest snow is forecast to fall along a line from Mankato to St. Paul to Ladysmith, Wis., where up to 8 inches could fall. Freezing rain could mix in on the southern edge of the storm in places such as Rochester and Winona. Some ice could form as temperatures drop from the 30s into the 20s, the weather service said.
While commuters will be unhappy, skiers and snowmobilers welcome the prospect of a nice snowpack on the hills and trails.
Strong winds will accompany the system, which will complicate travel across southern and central Minnesota and northern and western Wisconsin, especially during Monday’s morning rush hour. Winds blowing at 20 to 30 mph will reduce visibility, the weather service said.
The watch was issued well before the storm arrives to “give plenty of time for people and organizations to get ready,” Krause said.
Once the storm track is more firmly established, the watch could be upgraded to a warning.
The largest snowfall in the metro area this season was 3.3 inches on Jan. 14. The monthly total is just under 6 inches. For the season the Twin Cities is down 16 inches from the 29 inches that would normally fall, according to the weather service.
Snowfall has been scarce across the state, with most places running “significantly to just below normal,” said Kenny Blumenfeld of the Minnesota Climatology Office. “You can wipe that out in one storm,” he pointed out.
Historically, metrosnowstorms dropping 6 inches or more are not common at the airport, though large snowfalls have occurred there. As is the case this year, storms generally drop a few inches here and a few there.
“We see 6 inches in a 24-hour period usually only about once a year,” Krause said.
That might bode well for Super Bowl travelers and guests. Though the long-range forecast is not out yet, a big snow now may mean more temperate weather when the game at U.S. Bank Stadium is played Feb. 4.
After the weekend storm, high temperatures will drop into the 20s on Tuesday and climb to 30 degrees by Thursday. And in the longer outlook, “no sustained arctic blasts” are in sight, Krause said.