Dicey afternoon commute in store for Twin Cities

Traffic backed up on a snowy highway
Snowfall snarls the Tuesday morning commute in Minneapolis. A Winter Storm Warning was in effect for much of the Twin Cities metro area.
Ben Hovland | MPR News

The Twin Cities, and parts of southern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin are in the midst of a winter storm right now, and that's making for some dicey conditions on the roads and sidewalks.

MPR Meteorologist Sven Sundgaard is here for more details.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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Audio transcript

[MUSIC PLAYING] INTERVIEWER: --mentioned the Twin Cities and parts of southern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin are in the midst of a winter storm, and that's making for some dicey conditions on roads and sidewalks. NPR meteorologist Sven Sundgaard is here with more details. Sven, welcome back.

SVEN SUNDGAARD: Thanks for having me. I hope you're enjoying this snowy midday.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, it's lovely. Thank you so much. So where are we in snowfall totals so far? It looks like it's piling up out there.

SVEN SUNDGAARD: Yeah, we're really in the thick of it right now. So far, about four inches in the Twin Cities officially at MSP, and then some other totals we're getting that are about an hour or two old at this point already, so keep that in mind. But Lake Benton, about 4 inches in southwest Minnesota. Snow really wrapping up there, though-- Marshall, 2 inches, Laverne, 2 inches.

Bloomington-- again, this is an hour and a half old, about 2.4 inches. And Duluth coming in at about an inch and a half so far. So again, these are some morning totals.

We're adding to that right now. In fact, the visibility at MSP airport, down to about a quarter mile visibility. So I know we're talking about driving conditions, but probably some delays at the airport now, too, when the snow gets this intense.

INTERVIEWER: Looks like these bands are the heaviest bands coming through right now. Is that right?

SVEN SUNDGAARD: Yeah, we are in probably our heaviest snow over these next two to three hours right now. So if you can avoid traveling, this is the time to give MnDOT crews the room to clear the roads, because we're getting that compacted ice from people driving through the whole duration of this snow. So about through 2:00, 3:00 PM, we'll see some of the heaviest snow, the potential for some up to 1 inch per hour snowfall rates.

So the most intense band right now is from about Sleepy Eye, New Ulm, up through Gaylord up towards Carver, and right through the Twin Cities-- Shakopee, right on top of the airport right now, and towards Roseville. So this is the heavy band that's going to be sitting over us for the next couple of hours. We've got the highest vertical velocities, or basically lift, in the atmosphere right now.

And there's a bit of a question how far it can get into the layer that we like to see the biggest flakes form, but it's going to be close enough. So that's why there's that potential for these up to 1 inch per hour snowfall rates. And as I mentioned, visibility's at a quarter mile or less. And temperatures are dropping at the same time.

INTERVIEWER: Which is not going to make for great travel conditions, obviously. I know there are some people listening right now saying, well, we're fine. We've got some sunshine up here. What's going on down there? So it looks like there are places in the state of Minnesota where it's pretty quiet.

SVEN SUNDGAARD: Yeah, you know, Brainerd it's dry, Alexandria, up towards Crookston, International Falls, most of the Iron Range. There is snow up along the North Shore, but it's really hugging the North Shore-- so Duluth, Silver Bay, up through Grand Marais. That's where we're seeing the snow.

But the wind and cold is already moving into northwestern Minnesota-- teens there right now, in fact. 19 in Bemidji. We've got 20 in Fargo, and the wind's already picking up 15 to 20 miles an hour there. So it's that wind and cold that will be moving in behind this. Snow should wrap up in the Twin Cities by about 7:00, 8:00 PM, continuing into southeastern Minnesota in places like Rochester, and then also up the North Shore into the first part of the overnight.

But as I mentioned, those temperatures will be dropping through the teens overnight. You'll notice the winds already by late afternoon and evening picking up even here in eastern Minnesota, 15 to 25. So in total, a wide swath of 3 to 6 inches from Worthington through the Twin Cities, most of eastern, southern Minnesota, much of western Wisconsin. But the heavy band-- Mankato, Twin Cities, Rice Lake, we're right in it, ending up with probably about 5 to 8 inches.

We just talked about MSP is at 4 so far. We're probably going to get another 2 to 3 on top of that, so that gets us to that 6 to 8 inches. And then we could see up to 9, 10 inches for places like Hayward, Wisconsin, and Ironwood, Michigan.

INTERVIEWER: So is this our first big snowfall of the season? It seems like it is in terms of just the aerial coverage of this. It seems also late for that.

SVEN SUNDGAARD: Yeah, it's a little bit late for the first snowstorm. But we did have, actually, some pretty decent snow in the month of November. So this storm alone is going to put us above normal for not just November, but meteorological fall, which remember, ends after tomorrow.

So yeah, and of course, we'll need that we need the moisture. Any bit of that helps. So it does get colder tomorrow. We're talking about northwest winds blowing in, 30 to 40 mile-an-hour gusts tomorrow, temperatures only in the teens and low 20s. And wind chills are going to be sub-zero in western Minnesota through the day tomorrow.

INTERVIEWER: Delightful. All right, Sven Sundgaard. Thank you so much.

SVEN SUNDGAARD: Absolutely. Stay safe.

INTERVIEWER: You too. Thank you so much. And by the way, if you're looking for more information, Sven posts fresh weather information on the Updraft blog. You can check that out by going to mprnews.org. If you're on Twitter, of course, we're @MPRweather.

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