It won't be a blizzard, but the winter storm that was anticipated to roll into the Brainerd area late Monday is expected to be proof enough that March won't go out without a fight.
A winter storm warning was first issued Sunday by the National Weather Service in Duluth, with 6-12 inches of snow possible in Aitkin, Cass and Crow Wing counties.
On Monday, that forecast was slightly pared back, with 7 to 11 inches possible, said Greg Frosig, meteorologist with the weather service. The winter storm warning is in effect until 7 a.m. Wednesday.
"We're still expecting quite a bit of snow to develop," said Frosig.
Between 2 and 4 inches of snow was expected Monday night and 4 to 8 inches on Tuesday with snow mixing with rain at times Tuesday afternoon, the weather service said.
In addition to the snow, strong winds gusting to 35 mph will reduce visibility to a quarter mile or less at times and areas of drifting snow will make travel hazardous.
Tom Wryk, Minnesota Department of Transportation maintenance supervisor in Baxter, said he's set his snowplow crews to work later Monday and early Tuesday morning.
He said the forecast of heavy snow and strong winds will make travel difficult and alter plowing operations as crews will focus less on applying chemicals and more on clearing roadways.
"I think it could be interesting," Wryk said. "It's going to be a wet snow, probably with snow coming down hot and heavy at an inch an hour."
Brainerd City Engineer Jeff Hulsether said plowing crews will be out early Tuesday to make sure major routes in the city remain open. A decision whether to declare a snow emergency will be made Tuesday.
"It's kind of wait and see at this point," Hulsether said.
Temperatures this week are expected to be in the upper 30s and lower 40s and whatever snow falls is expected to melt relatively quickly, Frosig said.
Frosig added that the snowfall may force area rivers already above flood stages even higher.
"Because we're not going to see a real drastic change in river levels the next couple of days or so I don't see this storm having much of an adverse impact," he said.
In fact, area river levels receded slightly on Monday though flood warnings remain in effect until further notice.
The Mississippi River in Aitkin was at 15 feet, which is 3 feet over flood stage, and was expected to drop to 14.7 feet by Tuesday night.
The Mississippi River at Fort Ripley was at 12 feet, which is 2 feet over flood stage, and was expected to drop to 11.8 inches Tuesday.
Also, the weather service issued a flood advisory for the city of Brainerd with flooding in lowland and wooded areas and the possibility of ice jams.
A flood warning remained in effect for the Crow Wing River in Staples, Motley and Pillager to its flow into the Mississippi River near Crow Wing State Park; and for the Long Prairie River from Long Prairie to where it joins the Crow Wing River near Motley.
While last week's large ice jam on the Crow Wing River between Motley and Staples has dissipated and the river has receded about a foot, the weather service said minor flooding and ice jams are still possible along the river.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
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