Snowmaggedon is coming.
“This is going to happen,” said Amanda Graning, National Weather Service meteorologist in Duluth. “This is a big one. We are going to make up our winter here.”
Winter storms have slipped past the Brainerd lakes area. In fact, that’s been the routine this season. But this time, the weather service computer models are in agreement. A powerful winter storm carrying heavy, wet snow and packing gusty winds is bearing down on the Brainerd lakes area like four burly guys packed into a bobsled. The weather service described it as the strongest storm of the season by far.
“The latest trend is for the band of heaviest snow to be in the Brainerd to Duluth area,” Graning said. “The greatest potential to see over a foot does include the Brainerd area.”
That means the narrow band may dump a good foot-and-a-half of snow in the lakes area. Graning said the heaviest snow may not be larger than a countywide event, which is why the weather service is issuing a winter storm warning with a range. “There is going to be a pretty broad swath of more than 8 inches.”
For those who have travel plans, plane tickets or events that can’t be missed, the message is to leave early.
“(Tuesday) night is going to be a brutal night,” Graning said. “The main show should get going during the evening hours. Right now the warning does begin at 6 p.m. so anyone with travel plans after 6 p.m. will want to watch how things evolve.”
The winter storm warning is in effect from 6 p.m. Tuesday to 6 p.m. Wednesday. The weather service predicts the heaviest snow will be south of Highway 2 and the strongest winds at the head of Lake Superior. Snow fall totals greater than 14 inches is possible in from Pine River to Hayward, Wis. Winds are expected to be strong and relentless, causing a blizzard warning to be issued for West Central Minnesota.
Sleet or ice may fall farther south, such as the Twin Cities region and southern Minnesota. Folks in International Falls may only read about snow in this storm without ever seeing a flake outside their windows.
The weather service issued a winter storm warning. It is expected to start slow with about an inch of snow falling Tuesday, Feb. 28, mainly after noon.
By nightfall, heavy and blowing snow is anticipated. Winds may gust to 30 mph. The weather service isn’t hedging bets. It lists the chance of precipitation at 100 percent. Snowfall amounts may reach 9 to 13 inches. And it may not be done yet with more snow, and blowing snow, expected well into Wednesday.
On the plus side, temperatures are expected to remain mild and near 30 degrees. But the wind, expected to move snow with force, may put a bite into the warmer air.
After months of being in a quiet and dry weather pattern with storms slinking by instead of dropping in, there is a change in the air.
“Our weather pattern has kind of shifted so we have more of a storm track over our region,” Graning said. “Storms were going north and west and southwest storms out of the Rockies typically bring the snow. It’s definitely a pretty active pattern. Now we do see a few more little systems coming through.”
Another system is coming up Friday. The current track is taking the storm over Michigan but is expected to bring heavy snow to Wisconsin. But the weather service is watching the path. It wouldn’t have to shift much to bring that heavy snow to central Minnesota, Graning said.
But first things first. The approaching storm creating this winter storm warning is moving out of Nebraska and expected to track right over Minnesota and extend to Green Bay, Wis.
With that track, Brainerd will be on the north side of the low pressure system. That side of the snow is the cold side and more favorable for heavier snow.
“We have very high confidence in this storm,” Graning said. “It’s going to be nasty.”
The heavy snowfall may be coming down at such an intense rate to create “thunder snow” as the winter storm takes on thunderstorm intensity with lightning and booms of thunder.
“This kind of really heavy snowfall, when it is coming down at intense rates that we are expecting Tuesday night, plows can’t keep up with that snowfall and we are expecting that through much of Wednesday,” Graning said.
She advised people to think ahead and prepare for possible power outages, as well as be safe themselves and check on neighbors. Once the snow stops, people will want to take their time shoveling or depend on those with snowblowers and plows.
On the plus side, Graning said the snow is coming so late in the season, people can see the end already. Dealing with this snow now means a winter of just weeks remaining instead of months.