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Bring it on: Record snowfall for February within reach

National Weather Service Twin Cities

Setting a new lakes area record for snowfall in February is drawing ever closer.

The National Weather Service in Duluth forecasts about 4-6 inches of fresh snow from Wednesday's snowstorm, Feb. 20, when it's all said and done, in an update from earlier preliminary numbers.

Before this most recent snowfall, 15.5 inches had fallen to date in February, making it the ninth snowiest on record in the Brainerd lakes area. To move to the No. 1 spot means beating 25.4 inches set in 2001.

Duluth received 28.8 inches so far this month, closing in on 33.9 inches set in 1939, the year "Gone with the Wind" was released in theaters.

The weather service expected snow to begin falling about 4 a.m. to 5 a.m. Wednesday in Todd, Morrison, Mille Lacs, southern Cass and Crow Wing counties and by 6 a.m. as the storm system spreads north and east into Aitkin County. Higher snowfall rates are anticipated in the late morning to midday with snow ending about midnight. East winds may gust as high as 15 mph. Highs Wednesday may be in the low 20s.

Heavy snow is expected in a swath across the state from the southern border to Grand Marais with 6-9 inches of snow anticipated. Mille Lacs County and the southern half of Aitkin County are in a winter storm warning with 6-8 inches of snow possible.

In the lakes area, moderate to heavy snowfall is expected Wednesday.

"A fast-moving winter storm will impact the Northland beginning Wednesday morning and persisting into Wednesday night," the weather service reported, adding the greatest snowfall amounts, generally between 6 and 10 inches, are expected in a broad swath from Mille Lacs Lake to the Hayward lakes area in Wisconsin, northeastward to Duluth and much of the North Shore off Lake Superior. Lesser amounts of 3-6 inches are expected outside the main corridor of snow.

"Snow will be rapidly expanding across the area during the morning commute hours and difficult driving conditions are expected areawide for the Wednesday evening commute," the weather service reported.

Wadena, Todd, Morrison, Cass and Crow Wing counties are in a winter weather advisory 6 a.m. to midnight Wednesday meaning snow-covered roads may create difficult travel and limited visibility. Roadways could be slick creating hazardous driving conditions, the weather service stressed. In advance of this snowstorm, Twin Cities metro area school districts closed schools Wednesday.

More snow is expected across the Northland late Friday, Friday night and Saturday night into Sunday.

"The confidence in chances for impactful snow accumulations Saturday night and Sunday is rather low at this time," the weather service stated Tuesday afternoon.

Josh Sandstrom, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth, said there is still a bit of uncertainty about accumulating snowfall into the weekend. He described Wednesday's snowfall as a a quick punch, while snow Friday through Sunday could be more described as multiple waves. "Stay tuned for that," Sandstrom said.

The extended forecast calls for a chance of snow Monday and Tuesday.

Yes, it's been colder than normal

When temps in the upper teens with sun feels mild, it's been a cold winter and the numbers are there to prove it.

In addition to the snow, it's been 42 days since the Brainerd lakes area had daytime highs above freezing. The last time was Jan. 8 when the thermometer topped out at 35 degrees. The normal high this time of year is 28 degrees. So far in February, the Brainerd area has been below-normal temperatures 14 out of 18 days—with two days this month more than 27 degrees below normal.

"We're on quite a stretch below freezing," Sandstrom said.

He added that is likely to continue with a high possible of 31 degrees Saturday but temperatures continuing in the teens or 20s on either side of that possible peak.

Temperatures were below normal for 12 of 31 days in January, which after a stretch of unseasonably mild days well above normal—even reaching 41 degrees on Jan. 4—took a nosedive at months end. The coldest night reached 43 below—more than 36 degrees colder than normal. The last half of January took a turn to the deep freeze and the last eight days of the month, with the polar vortex in full regalia, was well below normal.

Beyond a lengthy stretch of cooler than normal days, the lakes area now needs 9.9 inches of snow by month's end to move this February to the top of the snowpile in the record books.