Winter storm watch Thursday includes Twin Cities and much of Minnesota

A rain to snow system brings more snow and high winds through Thursday night.

Winter storm watch
Winter storm watches as of midday Wednesday. Some of this area will likely be upgraded to a winter storm warning Wednesday afternoon.
Twin Cities National Weather Service

Another week, another wintry weather system plowing into Minnesota. Our next storm system arrives Thursday.

It’s been interesting to work the storms this season. Forecast models showed strong consensus with most of our storms from December into early February. But the models have been all over the place for the last two or three 3 storms. This week’s system is another ‘low-confidence’ storm with wide variance in forecast model solutions for snowfall.

Winter storm watches

Let’s start with the winter storm watch zone. Some of this area will likely be upgraded to winter storm warnings later this afternoon, and some changed to winter weather advisories. You can see the watch zone at the top of this post for central and southern Minnesota.

Here’s the watch zone for northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin from the Duluth NWS Office.

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Winter weather for northeast Minnesota
Wintry weather for northeast Minnesota.
Duluth National Weather Service

Rain to snow and wind Thursday

There will be some snow and a little ice in far northern Minnesota overnight into early Thursday.

The main part of Thursday’s storm will blow in with rain across southern Minnesota during the morning hours. By midday, the freezing line will move from central Minnesota into the greater Twin Cities, changing rain to snow in the early afternoon from west to east. There may be a period of sleety icy precipitation during the transition zone in the midday hours.

NOAA’s NAM 3 km model seems to have a decent handle on precipitation types as the system as it blows through Minnesota. The loop below runs between midnight and 6 pm Thursday.

NOAA NAM 3 km model
NOAA NAM 3 km model between midnight and 6 pm Thursday.
NOAA via tropical tidbits

Above freezing again in the east

Temperatures will hover above freezing in the 30s in the Twin Cities and eastern Minnesota again during the first parts of this system like the last two.

Forecast high temperatures Thursday
Forecast high temperatures Thursday.

And the storm timing means the first couple hours of snow will be falling during the afternoon. That means some of the snow may melt on the pavement again at first. I do think snowfall intensity will increase enough to cause more accumulating snows during the afternoon rush hours Thursday into Thursday evening as temperatures fall to the freezing point. With heavier snow and high winds ramping up Thursday afternoon and evening look gnarly for travel, especially north and west of the Twin Cities.

Snowfall totals

It looks like the heaviest snow with this system will fall across northeast Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin deeper into the colder air. Forecast models show a wide range of snowfall for the Twin Cities area. Some models show as little as two inches, many between about two and five inches, with a couple cranking out six to eight inches locally.

Overall I think a range in the Twin Cities between two and six inches may ultimately occur, with the heaviest snow on the north and west side of the Twin Cities.

Here’s the NWS latest snowfall projection for the Twin Cities and central and southern Minnesota.

Snowfall projection
Snowfall projection.

Heavier snowfall is very likely from about Hinckley on I-35 through Duluth and along the North Shore. Overall storm snowfall totals of eight to 12 inches seem likely. Here’s a wider look at NWS-modeled snowfall totals for all of Minnesota.

Snowfall projection for Minnesota
Snowfall projection for Minnesota.

Wind-driven snow

One point of emphasis with this storm is the wind. Winds will pick up rapidly Thursday afternoon and evening. Wind gusts over 30 to 40 mph are likely Thursday night. So the snow is going to be whipped around in open areas making travel difficult.

Forecast wind gusts
Forecast wind gusts at 2 am Friday.

Milder next week

Longer-range forecast models suggest we may finally get a break in storms, and some milder air into Minnesota next week. Highs should push well into the 40s by next Wednesday in many areas.

Forecast high temperatures Wednesday
Forecast high temperatures Wednesday, March 22.

A couple of forecast models hint at possible temperatures near 50 degrees in southern Minnesota by next Thursday.

Stay tuned.