Heavy snow and high winds will bring whiteouts and hazardous travel to much of southern Minnesota on Friday as a slow-moving snowstorm that began Thursday with freezing rain and slushy snow turns into a winter juggernaut.
A blizzard warning is in effect until 6 p.m. Friday in much of southwestern Minnesota, according to the National Weather Service.
Wind gusts greater than 30 mph will cause whiteout conditions in the warning area, which stretches from Alexandria to Albert Lea. And winds gusting as high as 60 mph will roar over the Worthington area, the NWS said.
Along with strong winds, up to 10 inches of snow is forecast along the Interstate 90 and I-35 corridors, including for Fairmont, Austin, Rochester and Faribault. Lesser amounts are expected in an area from St. Cloud to Brainerd to Hayward, Wis., and north to Duluth and International Falls.
Westbound I-90 will be closed overnight west of Blue Earth, authorities said. East and westbound traffic will remain open at Albert Lea.
Snowplows have been on the streets since early Thursday and will work throughout Friday until the roads are cleared, said Anne Meyer, spokeswoman for the Minnesota Department of Transportation. In the metro area, drivers will encounter a bit less snow and wind but should be on alert for slick spots.
The storm will be long-lasting because of the slow-moving system that spawned it, Jacob Beitlich, a meteorologist with the regional NWS office in Chanhassen, said Thursday evening.
"Several hours of light to moderate snow will add up to 4 to 8 inches for some folks," he said, adding the south metro will see more snow than the north.
By late Thursday, MnDOT's road conditions map already showed hazardous conditions on many state roads, particularly in the southwest.
From 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday, the State Patrol reported 81 crashes, 14 with injuries. There were no serious or fatal collisions as of Thursday night. The patrol also reported 57 vehicle spinouts and one jackknifed semitrailer truck.
Friday's weather will close COVID-19 testing facilities in Mankato, Albert Lea, Morris, Hutchinson and Worthington, according to the Minnesota Department of Health. People can reschedule or get tested through the state's no-cost at-home test at health.state.mn.us/diseases/coronavirus/testsites/athome.html.
The last measurable snowfall in the Twin Cities was on Dec. 29, when 2.4 inches of snow fell. Since then, the metro area has received only trace amounts of snow, on Jan. 4 and 9. Since Dec. 1, just over 12 inches of snow has fallen in the Twin Cities. That is about 4.5 inches below average, according to the Minnesota State Climatology Office.
Staff writer Tim Harlow contributed to this report.