Mother Nature just upped the ante for the amount of snow predicted to hit Thursday through Friday, Jan. 14-15, in the Brainerd lakes area.
And the kicker -- the snow is expected to be wet and heavy.
The National Weather Service in Duluth first reported Tuesday the Brainerd lakes area had a 57% chance to see 4 inches or more snow. Fast forward 24 hours and the weather models become clearer as the storm got closer, and as of Wednesday afternoon showed the lakes area with a chance to get anywhere from 3-7 inches of snow.
A winter weather advisory is in effect from midnight Wednesday through 6 p.m. Friday for Crow Wing, Cass and Aitkin counties including the cities of Brainerd, Pine River, Brainerd and Aitkin. This winter storm is expected to spread across most of Minnesota, with the greatest impact in the eastern portion of the state and into parts of Wisconsin.
A light wintry mix, including freezing rain, may be possible late Wednesday night into Thursday morning. The light freezing rain is possible from the Brainerd lakes area to International Falls before changing over to snow. This wintry mix will most likely affect portions of central into northern Minnesota. A few hundredths of ice accumulation are expected.
The weather service reported a snowfall may be fairly widespread of dumping between 4 to 6 inches of snow in the Northland. Significant snowfall will be possible with amounts in excess of 8 inches with some areas seeing around a foot.
Jonathan Wolfe, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Duluth, said they’ve been watching the storm for several days that is originating from the Gulf of Alaska. The storm made its way through British Columbia, through the Rockies and then began to slide back down east to come on top of the Midwest.
“The tricky part with this storm is the low pressure that's forming on a side of the Rockies and it's kind of developing on top of this,” Wolfe said. “So it's been a little difficult to try to nail down exactly where it's going to deepen the most and where that eventual snowfall will fall.”
Wolfe said the storm originally appeared to be heading near the Canadian border, but has been sagging southward “and therefore, our snowfall totals have been changing ... and we're still at least another day out there. So before the snow starts to fall, there will be one band of freezing rain that probably passes over (Brainerd Thursday) morning ... and it will give you a light glaze of freezing rain for the morning commute. But the rest of the storm kind of comes more in the (Thursday) afternoon. Most of the accumulations will be between noon Thursday and about 6 a.m. on Friday. So total accumulations have been fluctuating a little bit.”
Wolfe said this is a rare storm, in that it is bringing in so much moisture north from the Rockies. Typically when a winter storm moves down from the Rockies it is usually “moisture starved” and only produces a couple of inches of snow here and there, Wolfe said.
“This one has a lot more moisture and is about two to three standard deviations above the normal system for moisture contest, which is pretty significant,” Wolfe said.
The weather service reports travel could be very difficult for the morning commutes Thursday and Friday; and Thursday night. It is advised that motorists be prepared and have a survival pack to include water, snacks and blankets.
“There is so much energy wrapped up in this system,” Wolfe said, as the storm still is pulling a lot of moisture from Alaska and British Columbia. “In fact, over Montana right now they got really strong winds of 60-70 mph. ... It’s also moving pretty slow.”
So when is all of this snow going to fall? pic.twitter.com/52NxcPmO1g— NWS Duluth (@NWSduluth) January 13, 2021
The National Weather Service issued a weather model that shows a timeline of how much snow cities will receive. Brainerd may see about 3.3 inches of snow by 6 p.m. Thursday and another 1.8 inches by 6 p.m. Friday, totaling 5.1 inches, which falls between the estimated 4-7 inch range. The weather model for Aitkin shows 3.6 inches by 6 p.m. Thursday and 2.1 inches by 6 p.m. Friday, totally a possibility of 5.7 inches of snow.
The weather service also issued winter weather advisories for Wadena, Morrison and Todd counties. The winter storm also will impact the Twin Cities metro area, which is in a winter storm watch.
Brainerd lakes area detailed forecast
Wednesday night: A chance of snow and freezing rain before 4 a.m., then a chance of rain, snow and freezing rain between 4-5 a.m., then a chance of snow after 5 a.m. Patchy fog between 2-4 a.m. Otherwise, mostly cloudy, with a low around 27 degrees. South wind around 5 mph becoming west after midnight. Chance of precipitation is 50%.
Thursday: A 50% chance of snow. Cloudy, with a high near 34 degrees. West wind 5 to 10 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Snow is likely Thursday night, with a low around 26. Blustery, with a north wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 35 mph. Chance of precipitation is 70%. New snow accumulation of 2 to 4 inches possible.
Friday: Snow likely, mainly before noon. Cloudy, with a high near 32 degrees. Breezy, with a north wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 35 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. At night, mostly cloudy, with a low around 17 degrees. Blustery, with a north wind 10 to 15 mph, with gusts as high as 20 mph.
Saturday: Cloudy, with a high near 24 degrees. Northwest wind 5 to 10 mph. At night, mostly cloudy, with a low around 13 degrees. Northwest wind around 5 mph.
Source: National Weather Service in Duluth