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Winter storm watch kicks in Wednesday; more snow and bitter cold ahead

Heavy snow potential, blizzard-force winds and dangerously cold subzero wild chill later this week.

Winter weather warnings and advisories
Winter weather ahead.
Twin Cities National Weather Service

Get ready for our next large and impactful winter storm.

A powerful arctic front will bring snowfall, high winds, and dangerously bitter wind chills to Minnesota starting Wednesday and lasting through Friday. This system will produce major travel impacts as we head into the peak of the holiday travel season.

A winter storm watch kicks in for much of Minnesota Wednesday morning.

Winter storm watch
Winter storm watch Wednesday through Friday.
Twin Cities National Weather Service

This system has the potential for heavy snowfall and high winds will create potential blizzard conditions.

URGENT - WINTER WEATHER MESSAGE National Weather Service Twin Cities/Chanhassen MN 210 PM CST Mon Dec 19 2022

...BLIZZARD CONDITIONS AND DANGEROUSLY COLD AIR LIKELY LATER THIS WEEK... ...TRAVEL THURSDAY THROUGH FRIDAY NIGHT COULD BE IMPOSSIBLE AND LIFE-THREATENING...

.Snow will overspread the region Wednesday and bring several inches of fluffy accumulation through early Thursday. Winds will be relatively light Wednesday and Wednesday evening. Then, strong northwest winds gusting as high as 55 mph and dangerously cold air will surge in Thursday through Saturday morning.

Whiteout conditions are expected during that time with travel becoming very difficult or impossible. This event could be life-threatening if you are stranded with wind chills in the 30 below to 45 below zero range. Travel plans for late this week should be adjusted now.

In addition, heavy snow remaining on trees from the last storm and strong winds arriving could result in tree damage and power outages as temperatures drop below zero. A Winter Storm Watch is in effect from Wednesday through late Friday night for all of central and southern Minnesota and west central Wisconsin. A Wind Chill Watch is in effect Thursday through Saturday morning for southern and western Minnesota.

The Twin Cities NWS Office isn’t pulling any punches in the watch wording text. You don’t see “difficult to impossible travel” and “life-threatening” wording text in every winter storm watch.

Including the cities of Long Prairie, St Cloud, Litchfield, Monticello, Hutchinson, Gaylord, Chanhassen, Chaska, Victoria, Shakopee, St Peter, Le Sueur, Faribault, Mankato, Waseca, and Blue Earth

210 PM CST Mon Dec 19 2022 ...WINTER STORM WATCH IN EFFECT FROM WEDNESDAY MORNING THROUGH LATE FRIDAY NIGHT... ...WIND CHILL WATCH IN EFFECT FROM THURSDAY EVENING THROUGH SATURDAY MORNING...

* WHAT...For the Winter Storm Watch, blizzard conditions possible. Total snow accumulations of 5 to 10 inches possible. Winds could gust as high as 50 mph. For the Wind Chill Watch, dangerously cold wind chills possible. Wind chills as low as 40 below zero.

* WHERE...Portions of central, east central and south central Minnesota. * WHEN...For the Winter Storm Watch, from Wednesday morning through late Friday night. For the Wind Chill Watch, from Thursday evening through Saturday morning.

* IMPACTS...Travel could be very difficult or impossible. Widespread blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility. Gusty winds could bring down tree branches. The dangerously cold wind chills could cause frostbite on exposed skin in as little as 10 minutes.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS...This could be a life-threatening situation if you get stranded traveling late this week. Consider adjusting any travel plans now.

The system

The snowfall associated with this weather system is triggered by an advancing arctic front. The low-pressure system will be in Wyoming on Tuesday morning, then track south of Minnesota into the Great Lakes by Friday. NOAA’s GFS picks up the general trend of an expanding snow shield across Minnesota and the Upper Midwest Wednesday into Friday.

NOAA GFS model Thursday and Friday
NOAA GFS model between 6 am Wednesday and 6 pm Friday.
NOAA via tropical tidbits

Note the packed lines behind the low center? That’s a tight pressure gradient that will produce blizzard-force winds in excess of 40 to 50 mph Thursday and Friday.

Early forecast mode snowfall projections favor a wide zone of 5 to 10-inch snowfall potential. If current storm track forecasts hold, there could be a heavier band of snowfall up to or exceeding a foot.

Some current models suggest that may lay out from near the greater Twin Cities into northern Wisconsin. But it should be noted that there are still major forecast model differences in snowfall coverage and amounts. It’s still too early for high confidence here.

That said, here’s what Monday’s 12Z Canadian model (Kuchera) snowfall output looks like.

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

Dangerously cold wind chills

All of the Upper Midwest will feel dangerously cold subzero wind chills later this week.

Wind chill forecast
Wind chill forecast.
Twin Cities National Weather Service

There’s still plenty of details that can change with snowfall totals in this system Let’s see what Tuesday’s forecast model runs bring. I would have a plan B for travel Wednesday through Friday.

Stay tuned.

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