The first swing in this week’s winter one-two punch began Sunday with what's expectd to be 4-7 inches of snow falling across the Twin Cities, soon to be followed by a deep freeze.
As the snow accumulated into the minorng, several metro-area communities declared parking restrictions and Minneapolis and St. Paul Public Schools canceled all classes and activities on Monday. Dozens of other school districts across the state called off classes or announced delayed starts. The Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport encouraged people to verify the status of their flight as the snow continued.
Once the snow tapers off Monday morning, temperatures will start to plunge Monday night, ushering in at least three days of predicted below-zero weather. The highs are expected to be in the double digits below zero Tuesday and Wednesday, with a slight warm-up to single digits below zero come Thursday.
“I think the proper term is nasty cold,” said Tyler Hasenstein, meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Chanhassen. Though the predictions for the snow accumulation varied on Sunday, he said the concern about the upcoming temperature drop has stayed consistent.
“We are very confident this cold is going to be significant,” Hasenstein said. “People are right to be concerned.”
The midweek cold spell will rival the frigid February of 1996, which closed schools and challenged septic systems and car batteries. But that didn’t come with the 10 to 15 mph winds predicted this week.
Temps on Wednesday could fall to 30 below. With windchill, particularly in rural areas where the wind has more room to build up speed, those numbers could fall to 60 below.
“That means frostbite in a matter of minutes,” Hasenstein said.
It remains to be seen whether the temperature will drop to 30 below on Wednesday or Thursday, he said.
“That would be a once-in-20-year thing if that happens,” Hasenstein said.
Recorded lows at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport include 29 below on Jan. 29, 1951; 30 below for Jan. 30, 1887, and 27 below for Jan. 31, also set in 1887.
Expected snowfall totals for the metro area dropped on Sunday night when a heavier band of precipitation shifted to the south of the Twin Cities. Because the snow was so light, much of it was picked up by the wind, making for less accumulation and hard-to-measure totals, Hasenstein said.
“There’s not a lot of moisture in this snow, so it’s not going to hold together like a good snowball would,” said MnDOT spokesman Kevin Gutknecht. Still, that kind of snow combined with the winds due in the area this week can lead to treacherous driving.
Hearing about the week’s forecast of snow left just one thought in Taylor Triplett’s mind:
“I really, really don’t want to walk to class in that,” said Triplett, a junior studying kinesiology at the University of Minnesota.
Working in a heated tent at Loring Park’s ice skating rink, Triplett said he noticed that the dropping temps on Sunday were already thinning out the crowds at the rink. Just a handful came to him to borrow a pair of skates on Sunday, and a few commented that they were enjoying the chance to get out before the bitter cold ushered in a wave of cabin fever.