Dangerous wind chills follow blizzard conditions

Snow totals ranged from 2 inches to 5.7 inches in the Brainerd lakes region after the 2020 blizzard.

People walk across the Crosby-Ironton School parking lot to their car in blizzard conditions Wednesday, Dec. 23, in Ironton. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Christmas Eve was a quiet and sunny counterpart to the raging blizzard Wednesday, Dec. 23.

While the sun and blue skies were abundant, so were dangerous wind chills as people completed their final preparations before Christmas.

RELATED: Weather service issues rare blizzard warning for lakes area
Shoppers out in the storm bent over against the stinging wind, which combined to drive snow that felt like sand particles into unprotected faces and grew bitterly cold as the day progressed. Others struggled to move shopping carts through the snow. While the storm’s snow amounts weren’t overpowering, the wind compacted the snow that did fall into dense spots and drifts.



The wind gusts at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport reached 56 mph.

“Looking at the peak winds from this afternoon and evening, there have been some impressively strong wind gusts reported across the Northland,” the National Weather Service in Duluth tweeted. “The big winner is Grand Marais, where a 70 MPH wind gust was reported!”

National Weather Service Duluth

Duluth issued a no travel advisory Wednesday.

Even as the snow was tapering off, driving at dusk in Baxter made it a challenge to see where the sides of the roads ended as blowing snow continued into the night.


In Brainerd neigborhoods, those who wanted to get ahead of the plummeting temperatures had their snowblowers out Wednesday night. Others bundled up and tackled the snow through the cold Christmas Eve morning light. Just how much snow fell was challenging to measure with some areas scrubbed to bare, slippery pavement by the wind while snow drifted in other areas.

Snowfall reports to the National Weather Service show 3 inches to nearly 4 inches in the Brainerd and Baxter areas.

The highest snowfall totals, with 6-8 inches in a swath punctuated by patches of 6-12 inches with this storm, fell in the Arrowhead and in a line from the Twin Cities to Duluth. The higher snowfall amounts were widespread across the tip of the Arrowhead along the North Shore.

The National Weather Service in Duluth reported 13 inches of snow fell in Holyoke with 9.5 inches in Two Harbors. Wisconsin received a bit more.

Area snowfall totals

5.7 inches Vineland

4 inches Little Falls


4 inches Bertha

3.8 inches Camp Ripley

3 inches East Gull Lake

3 inches Menahga

2.5 inches Pine River

2 inches Long Prairie


Dangerous wind chills persist

A wind chill advisory nearly covered the northern half of the state Thursday, including Wadena, Cass, Crow Wing and Aitkin counties. By 2 p.m. Thursday, temperatures warmed to 1 degree with a wind chill of 18 below. The wind chill advisory extended until 3 p.m. Christmas Eve. Overnight, the weather station at the Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport dropped to a low of 8 below with a 30-below wind chill compared to a high of 30 degrees before 8 a.m. Wednesday just before the storm arrived.

RELATED: UPDATED: NWS reports freezing rain, snow and then dangerous wind chills expected - snow totals increase in forecast.
Dangerous wind chills are expected to continue Thursday night with gusty winds that could lead to additional drifting snow. But Christmas Day promises a warming trend to a high of 23 degrees beneath most sunny skies. Winds should subside to 5-10 mph.

Expect a repeat for Saturday before a colder week ahead, a high of 6 degrees forecast for Monday and highs in the teens into the last week of the year. There is a slight chance of snow next week.

Crashes and stranded motorists

Thursday’s blizzard warning covered much of the state. Gov. Tim Walz activated the Minnesota National Guard to help stranded motorists. Highways in southwestern Minnesota were closed. A portion of Highway 12 was blocked with stranded vehicles and closed with reports of zero visibility. Roads across the southwestern part of the state were closed to travel with multiple crashes and whiteout conditions.

Statewide between the start of the storm Thursday through 6 a.m. Christmas Eve, the Minnesota State Patrol reported 435 crashes with 55 injuries (51 were identified as non-life-threatening injuries) and an additional 570 vehicles that ran off the road, and 38 jackknifed semitrailers. Another 133 vehicles were listed as stalled and blocking traffic.


Renee Richardson, managing editor, may be reached at 218-855-5852 or Follow on Twitter at

Renee Richardson is managing editor at the Brainerd Dispatch. She joined the Brainerd Dispatch in 1996 after earning her bachelor's degree in mass communications at St. Cloud State University.
Renee Richardson can be reached at or by calling 218-855-5852 or follow her on Twitter @dispatchbizbuzz or Facebook.
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