Game on: Plowable October snowfall arrives Tuesday

Widespread 3- to 6-inch totals possible across much of Minnesota

Jason Ackerman snowblows a driveway along Arrowhead Road in Duluth, Minn., in October 2010.
Derek Montgomery for MPR News 2010

Here we go Minnesota.

The season's first significant snowfall accumulation arrives for many Minnesota locations Tuesday. Much of northern Minnesota has already seen accumulating snow this month. Tuesday brings the first significant snowfall accumulations for much of central and southern Minnesota.

Here’s the system breakdown and most likely snowfall accumulation scenario for Tuesday.

The system

A moderate strength low-pressure wave tracks across Minnesota Tuesday. The temperature profile within the system is cold enough to produce mostly snow across Minnesota. There may be rain mixed in across southern Minnesota.

Snow will spread from western Minnesota Tuesday morning, into the Twin Cities during the late morning and midday hours. Snow will gradually taper off from west to east Tuesday evening.

Here’s NOAA’s NAM 3 km resolution model depiction of events between 7 a.m. and 10 a.m. Tuesday.

NOAA NAM 3 km model Tuesday
NOAA NAM 3 km model output between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Tuesday
NOAA via tropical tidbits


Most snow companies plow at 2 or 3 inches of depth. That criteria would make Tuesday’s snow a plowable event for many parts of Minnesota.

My assessment is that widespread snowfall totals between 3 and 6 inches are most likely in a zone between a Fargo-Brainerd-Duluth line and a Redwood Falls-Twin Cities-Eau Claire line.

Most forecast models project a snowfall range between 3 and 6 inches for most of central and southern Minnesota including the greater Twin Cities area. We may lose an inch or two to melt on the relatively warm ground. I expect less snowfall in far southern and northern Minnesota with this system.

Here’s NOAA’s GFS model snowfall output.

NOAA GFS snowfall output Tuesday
NOAA GFS snowfall output Tuesday
NOAA via pivotal weather

Here’s the Canadian model.

Canadian model snowfall output Tuesday
Canadian model snowfall output Tuesday
Environment Canada via pivotal weather

The European model cranks out the high-end solution with the potential for 4 to 8 inches in a stripe from Redwood Falls through the Twin Cities.

European model (ECMWF) snowfall output
European model (ECMWF) snowfall output Tuesday
ECMWF via pivotal weather

The Twin Cities National Weather Service office snowfall forecast runs 3 to 5 inches for most of central and southern Minnesota.

Snowfall projection
Snowfall projection for Tuesday
Twin Cities National Weather Service

The daily record snowfall for Oct. 20 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is 3 inches, so a record-breaking snowfall in the Twin Cities is possible Tuesday.

Temperatures during the day may hover above freezing in the Twin Cities and southern Minnesota. That may help roads somewhat, but I’d be ready for slick roads around parts of Minnesota Tuesday.

Forecast high temperatures Tuesday
Forecast high temperatures Tuesday

Bottom line

Expect accumulating snow across most of Minnesota Tuesday. The heaviest snows will favor the midday and afternoon hours. Several inches are likely before the snow tapers off Tuesday evening.

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