The lakes area's first significant snowfall of the season could land Saturday.
And in the opinion of meteorologists at the National Weather Service in Duluth, area residents could be shoveling out from under a half foot of snow Sunday morning.
"At least six inches looks good right now," Steve Wannebo, meteorologist with the weather service, said Thursday.
The snow is expected to start Saturday afternoon and continue into Saturday night. There's also a slight chance of snow on Sunday and Sunday night, according to the weather service.
The winter storm, preceded by the cold air mass the Brainerd area has been mired in all week, will be coming out of the Southern states bringing with it warm air from the Gulf of Mexico. Combining warm and cold air typically means plenty of precipitation, said Declan Cannon, another meteorologist with the weather service.
"It's kind of in that preferred storm track for heavy snow in this part of the country," Cannon said.
But even a meteorologist has to hedge his bet once in awhile. In fact, the National Weather Service in Duluth on Thursday put Brainerd's chance of snow Saturday and into Saturday night at 50 percent. However, on Thursday afternoon the weather service issued a winter storm watch Saturday afternoon through Sunday for Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs, Morrison and Todd counties.
"Nobody can say 100 percent, but it definitely looks good for significant snow," Cannon said.
Wannebo was a little more direct.
"You're definitely going to get some activity. As for the final, actual total we just won't know until it happens," Wannebo said. "It's still a couple of days away, so (Friday) we'll have a better idea what's going on."
The storm is expected to hit hardest in the southeast part of the state. The National Weather Service in Chanhassen has forecast a 70 percent chance of snow with 5-6 inches likely Saturday afternoon. In the southern Twin Cities suburbs the forecast calls for 6-7 inches of snow, 7 inches in Faribault and 6-7 inches in Red Wing on Saturday afternoon.
On a positive note, Saturday and Sunday will be slightly warmer - though well below the 30 degree average - with temps topping out at about 22 degrees. The cold will return Monday with low temps below zero and high temps in the mid-teens.
In a news release Thursday, State Patrol Lt. Mark Peterson urged motorists to prepare for bad driving conditions in light of the possible winter storm. Peterson recommended testing breaks, always using seat belts, allowing for plenty of travel time, adjusting speed to weather conditions, keeping a safe distance between vehicles, using headlights and not using cruise control.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 855-5857.
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