Snowmageddon makes way through state: Area schools close Thursday
The anticipated spring snowstorm didn't let anything stop it, as it stayed on track Wednesday, April 10, making its way from the southern half of the state into central Minnesota.
Snow brought on by Winter Storm Wesley was expected to be wet and heavy and was predicted to be accompanied by high wind gusts. Snow began falling lightly but did not accumulate in the Brainerd area before 7 p.m. Wednesday.
The National Weather Service forecast the snow to begin about 7 p.m. Wednesday and continue through 7 a.m. Friday. As of 9 p.m., accumulating snow had yet to commence. Several schools announced they would be closed Thursday, including Brainerd, Crosby-Ironton, Little Falls, Pequot Lakes, Pillager, Pierz, McGregor and Pine River-Backus school districts.
The National Weather Service continued to have a winter storm warning in effect from late Wednesday night through Friday afternoon for Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd and Wadena counties, to include the cities of Pine River, Brainerd, Little Falls, Hill City, Wadena and Aitkin, much of northeast, central and southern Minnesota and all of northwestern Wisconsin. Central and southwestern Minnesota from St. Cloud to Marshall are in a blizzard warning until Friday morning.
Heavy snow is possible in the lakes area with total snow accumulations between 10-18 inches and winds gusting as high as 50-plus mph. The heaviest snowfall was expected to fall Thursday afternoon into Thursday night.
Here's how the snow is forecast to fall in Brainerd area:
• Between 7 p.m. Wednesday and 7 a.m. Thursday: 3 inches of snow.
• Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Thursday: 7 inches of snow.
• Between 7 p.m. Thursday and 7 a.m. Friday: 5 inches of snow.
• Between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Friday: 1 inch of snow.
Wind gusts in the Brainerd area are expected to be as high as 47 mph Thursday afternoon, so residents will have to make sure they hold on to their hats when walking outdoors. Walker is expected to have 41 mph wind gusts. Duluth and Superior, Wis., could have the highest wind gusts of more than 50 mph. The NWS reported coastal flooding and damage are possible in the Twin Ports area and the winds could create 15-foot waves that will crash the shorelines, possibly breaking walls and other shoreline structures or "you could be swept away or hit by lofted chunks of ice," the weather service reported.
Meteorologist Justin Schultz with NWS Duluth hosted a webinar Wednesday for the upcoming storm and said not much has changed, as the system was on track to produce a good amount of snow and northeast winds, which could lead to near-blizzard conditions in some areas.
Schultz said travel could be difficult to impossible in some areas. The winds may make visibility difficult and could bring down tree branches.
The statewide tornado drills scheduled for Thursday for Minnesota were canceled due to ongoing widespread severe winter weather and blizzard/winter storm warnings. The Minnesota drill will not be rescheduled.
Forecast at a glance
• Wednesday night: Patchy blowing snow after 4 a.m. Cloudy, with a low around 26. Breezy, with an east wind 15 to 20 mph, with gusts as high as 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New snow accumulation of 1 to 3 inches possible.
• Thursday: The snow could be heavy at times. Patchy blowing snow. High near 30. Windy, with an east wind 20 to 25 mph, with gusts as high as 45 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New snow accumulation of 6 to 10 inches possible. Blowing snow before 1 a.m. Low around 26. Windy, with a northeast wind 15 to 25 mph, with gusts as high as 35 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%.
• Friday: Snow before noon, then rain and snow between noon and 1 p.m., then rain likely after 1 p.m. High near 38. Northeast wind around 10 mph becoming northwest in the afternoon. Winds could gust as high as 20 mph. Chance of precipitation is 80%. A chance of rain and snow before 10 p.m., then a chance of snow between 10 p.m. and 1 a.m. Cloudy, with a low around 26. Chance of precipitation is 30%.
• Saturday-Sunday: Sunny with a high near 40-42.
Crow Wing County reported highway snowplows will begin plowing operations 5 a.m. Thursday and will continue to plow into the night. Heavy snowfall rates will make it difficult for the plows to keep the roads bare, the county reported.
"Please give yourself extra time to get to your destination and drive with your headlights on," county officials reported.
Snow totals as of 9 p.m. Wednesday
Marshall: 6 inches.
Darwin: 3.5 inches.
Montrose: 5.3 inches.
Minneapolis/St. Paul: 4.2 inches.
Prior Lake: 5.9 inches.
Rochester: 4.1 inches.
Shakopee: 4 inches.
St. Cloud: .5 inches.
Apple Valley: 4.3 inches.
Winter driving tips
• Clearing snow and ice from windows and lights;
• Braking early and leaving twice the amount of room for stopping;
• Not using cruise control in wintry conditions;
• Not cutting in front of other vehicles; and
• Taking it slow, delaying travel if feasible.
A word from Minnesota Power
Minnesota Power and Superior Water, Light and Power said they are prepared for heavy, wet snow and high winds predicted for Thursday and Friday in northern Minnesota and Wisconsin.
"Such strong early spring storms can cause power outages, and travel during this storm is expected to be hazardous and difficult," a news release stated. "An early forecast from the National Weather Service allowed timely preparations to ensure power will be restored as quickly and safely as possible if outages occur."
A potential danger in this storm will be high winds and heavy snow causing trees and limbs to fall on power lines. Customers are urged to stay away from any such trees that appear to threaten power lines to their homes, and instead contact Minnesota Power at 800-228-4966 or download and use one of the company's new mobile apps—to report any problems.
Minnesota Power encouraged customers to download new mobile apps to be able to report an outage, view the outage map and check power restoration times. The previous outage app was deactivated on March 31, and customers who have not downloaded the new Minnesota Power or Superior Water, Light and Power mobile apps will not have quick access to outage information on their phones or tablets.
To download the new apps for Apple iOS or Android, go to the Minnesota Power website at
www.mnpower.com or the Superior Water, Light and Power website at www.swlp.com and click on the App Store or Google Play button in the banner at the top of the page. You will then be linked to the webpage where the app can be installed on devices.
Online Outage Centers at www.mnpower.com/OutageCenter or www.swlp.com/Outage also include outage maps and information on power restoration times. Following Minnesota Power or Superior Water, Light and Power on Twitter or Facebook is another way to get timely updates on power outages.
Tips to help customers weather a storm:
• Keep a "Lights Out" kit in an accessible place with at least one flashlight, a battery-powered radio and extra batteries.
• Use candles or camping lanterns with caution.
• If a person has a fireplace, keep matches and firewood handy to be prepared to build a fire to keep warm.
• Turn off televisions, stoves, microwave ovens, stereo equipment and other appliances except a refrigerator and freezer.
• Leave on at least one light so a person will know when power has been restored.
• Stay away from low or downed power lines.
For more "Lights Out" tips, visit: https://bit.ly/1hwePVb.