Merry Christmas to everyone who didn't have to travel Friday.
After dropping more than 4.5 inches of snow Thursday morning, what National Weather Service Meteorologist Mike Stewart called the "teaser," the heaviest snow from the winter storm was expected to be falling late Thursday and into Christmas day.
Though plow crews kept roads clear Thursday, Stewart said no travel was advised during the height of the storm Friday as heavy snow, blowing snow and drifting snow was expected to make driving hazardous across the state.
"If you want to travel toward the Twin Cities you forget about it. It's as simple as that," Stewart said. "If you haven't done it by now, better just to stay where you are at."
Angelic Alice Balsley performed in the Christmas Eve program at Lord of Life Lutheran Church in Baxter. Frightful forecasts for Christmas snowfalls meant plenty of prayers for safe travel.
Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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Weather spotters calling in Thursday morning to the National Weather Service in Duluth reported 6.5 inches in Poplar in Cass County, 4.8 inches in Pillager; 4.5 inches of snow in Brainerd, Nisswa and Pequot Lakes; 4 inches in Little Falls and Pine Center; 3 inches in Fort Ripley; 2.9 inches in Long Prairie; and 2.5 inches in Onamia.
By 10 a.m. Thursday the winter storm hit a lull but Stewart expected snow to pick up again by Thursday afternoon.
"The big stuff is yet to come," Stewart said Thursday afternoon. "It may come in waves, where you see times of really heavy snow then see it lighten up, but it will be snowing steady. It could reach 1 to 2 inches of snow per hour."
Stewart said the forecast showed 3 inches of snow from 6 p.m. - midnight Thursday, 5 inches from midnight to 6 a.m. Friday, 3 inches from 6 a.m.-noon Friday, another 3 inches Friday afternoon and perhaps an inch Friday night through Saturday morning.
In all, some places in the Brainerd area could see more than 20 inches of snow by Saturday.
"It's been everything we expected it would be," Stewart said.
Santa and his reindeer watched silently as Bob Schuler, Baxter, cleared a path following the Christmas Eve snowfall in the lakes area. Area residents were shoveling about four inches of snow Thursday morning with more expected for the holiday snowstorm that is expected to extend into Christmas Day. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls
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There were a few cancellations because of the weather. Flights at Brainerd Lakes Regional Airport were canceled Thursday, the 11 p.m. service at Trinity Lutheran Church was canceled and the Brainerd Parks and Recreation Department announced skating rinks and warming houses would be closed until Monday.
For the most part, motorists adjusted their driving to the poor road conditions Thursday, State Patrol Capt. Mark Jonassen said, as there were very few reports of crashes or vehicles in ditches.
"I'm assuming a lot of people took (Thursday) off because the morning commuting traffic just wasn't there," Jonassen said.
Brainerd's district of the State Patrol, which covers seven area counties, had nine extra troopers on Thursday, Jonassen said, as days off and vacations were canceled for the winter storm.
There will be a full compliment of troopers on through the weekend, Jonassen said.
"It's my understanding when the heavy snow starts again we'll be in for Round Two and the winds will pick up, too," Jonassen said. "When that happens all bets are off."
Jonassen credited the Minnesota Department of Transportation for the job they did Thursday keeping area roadways clear. Except during lulls in the storm, MnDOT plow crews were expected to be out in shifts during all hours to keep area roadways clear.
Plows cleared roadways for travelers and left a little Christmas Eve work for residents. A Baxter woman cleared the end of her driveway Thursday morning on Inglewood Drive. Temperatures remained warm, in the upper 20s, making shoveling an easier task. Brainerd Dispatch/Steve Kohls » Purchase reprints of this photo.
MnDOT listed driving on areas roads as difficult with snow on roads, slippery pavement and blowing snow.
In Brainerd, crews started plowing Thursday but a snow emergency will not go into effect until 2 a.m. Saturday.
"We're going to try to get everything cleaned up (Thursday) and then, depending on what get later, if looks like it's going to be a problem for people to get around Friday we'll have crews in for the emergency routes and to get the main roads opened," City Engineer Jeff Hulsether said. "On Saturday, we'll start cleaning up everything."
For the snow emergency, snow removal in the central business district will start at 3 a.m. Saturday and parking will be banned on Front Street from South Sixth to South Eighth streets, Laurel Street from South Sixth to South Eighth streets, and South Seventh Street from Maple to Front streets.
At 6 a.m. Saturday, snow plowing will start on all snow emergency routes, all north-south streets, all streets west of Mississippi River and all streets south of Willow Street.
At 6 a.m. on Sunday snow plowing will take place on all east-west streets and in alleys.
Parking in banned on streets the day they are scheduled to be plowed until the streets had been plowed curb to curb. Vehicles plowed around will be issued a $25 parking ticket. Vehicles plowed around that have not been moved within 48 hours will be towed at the owner's expense.
MATT ERICKSON may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5857.
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