The winter snowstorm, expected to dump 12-18 inches of snow in the Brainerd lakes area by Saturday, may make travel difficult and downright treacherous during the holiday season, even if you happened to be pulled by a team of flying reindeer.
Kevin Kraujalis, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Duluth, said the Brainerd lakes area should get around 4-8 inches of snow starting Wednesday night through about 6 p.m. Thursday. The lakes area likely will get another couple inches by midnight Thursday and 2-3 additional inches of snowfall by 6 a.m. Friday. The lakes area is under a storm warning until 6 a.m. Saturday.
Kraujalis said the snow likely will be wet and heavy.
"It looks like just a lot of continuous snow piling up," said Kraujalis of the holiday snowfall. "It's hitting at the worst possible time. It's not unusual for this time of year but to be on Christmas Day, the timing is very uncanny - to even last on the last day of Christmas."
The National Weather Service storm warning includes southern Cass, Crow Wing and southern Aitkin counties. The storm is projected to cause major travel delays and bring dangerous travel conditions throughout the Christmas holiday period. Strong east to northeast winds, from 15-30 mph, also will be expected, especially near Lake Superior where blizzard conditions are expected. Kraujalis said Minnesota's North Shore area, including Duluth, is projected to receive 18-20 inches or more of snow.
The winds will combine at times with falling and drifting snow in open areas, producing limited visibility for less than a quarter mile at times, according to the National Weather Service. This storm will affect a large portion of central United States, including Minnesota and much of the Dakotas, Iowa and Wisconsin.
The high on Christmas Eve will be near 28 degrees and low around 27. The high on Christmas Day will be near 28 with gusts as high as 25 mph. The Friday night low will be around 17 degrees.
Brainerd city officials were to make a decision Thursday morning about whether a snow emergency will be called in the city.
Brainerd Police Chief John Bolduc said the police department has a small snowplow in case officers need to get emergency vehicles to any address during the storm and officers on duty will be driving four-wheel drive vehicles.
"We haven't had a storm like this on a major holiday for quite awhile," said Bolduc. "I think most of the problems will be seen on the highways as people are commuting to their locations. Our concerns are getting to people who have a medical or a fire or a crime in progress and our first priority is to make sure we can get there but we're pretty confident we can get there."
"People should just use common sense and don't travel unless you need to," added Bolduc. "If you need to, give yourself plenty of time and be patient on the roadways."
The Minnesota Department of Public Safety and the Minnesota Department of Transportation advises motorists to use safe and smart driving practices during the storm and to stay tuned to weather forecasts.
For road conditions and travel information visit www.511mn.org or call 511.
JODIE TWEED may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5858.
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