The forecast is calling for a up to a foot of heavy, wet snow on Wednesday for parts of Minnesota, sending a shudder for all of those who have already swapped their down for spring jackets.
Like it or not, this is spring — Minnesota style. Crocus and daffodil blooms might not fare so well under a blanket of sodden snow, but most trees, shrubs and other plants that are poking up and popping out should live for another spring day. And so will hardy Minnesotans.
Southern Minnesota and south central Wisconsin likely will get several inches to up to a foot of snow, said Andy Lahr, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen. South metro residents also might be digging out from the spring snowstorm, he said, although he cautioned that it's still too early to tell where the cutoff will be between those who will have to shovel and those who won't.
"We're not out of the woods yet" in the Twin Cities, Lahr said.
Mind you, Minnesota, averages 10.3 inches of snow for March. So far, we've had just 1.7 inches, Lahr said. So, Wednesday's storm could bring parts of Minnesota to normal. Lucky them.
The snow likely will start on Wednesday, late morning to early afternoon, Lahr said. It will intensify through the afternoon and into the night, tapering by early Thursday morning, he said. "As of now, we're still a couple days out so even a slight shift in the track [of the storm] could cause huge differences in the amounts, especially in the Twin Cities," Lahr said.
Temperatures will be in the mid-30s as the storm begins and then likely will dip to the mid-20s, he said. As the storm pulls away, temperatures will creep to the mid-30s on Thursday and get into the 40s by Friday, making some of that new fallen snow a memory.
Once it's gone, trees, shrubs and plants will take another run at a spring entrance. The unusually warm winter had some trees and plants emerging early from their hiatus weeks earlier than normal, said Kathy Zuzek, an educator in horticulture at the University of Minnesota Extension.
"I've been traveling around the state and I'm seeing silver maples, the aspen and their relatives blooming already," Zuzek said. "The flowers are just about done on the maples. It's very early."
If snowstorm damages those flowers, those trees likely won't seed, she said. Tightly-budded trees will be more insulated and those that haven't leafed out should weather the storm just fine.
For those trees that began to green, a backup plan will compensate for the March storm, Zuzek said. "There are other buds that will take over and they'll send out a whole new shoot and whole new set of leaves," she said. "You won't end up with bare plants. It will just force them to start all over."
"It's just been a weird winter," Zuzek said. "We had all that warmth in November and December. You could see lilac buds that wanted to push and expand. And we've had a very early spring."
A spring snowstorm could be weather whiplash for trees and plants.
Gardeners could throw a blanket on emerging plants to protect them, Zuzek said. "But there's not a lot you can do," she said. "So no need to freak out."
Minnesota's apple crop also should fare well through a March storm, said John Jacobson, production manager for Pine Tree Apple Ochard in White Bear Lake. Although the apple trees have been coming out of winter dormancy this year earlier than usual, they're not too far ahead that the cold and snow will damage them, he said.
"They're just starting to wake up, but by no means are they fully awake yet," Jacobson said. "The weather is changing to be a little more seasonable, so they'll just take a little more of a nap here and we'll be fine."