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Forecast models: Historic April blizzard on the way

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There's no sugarcoating what forecast models say is about to happen in Minnesota. This storm looks impressive on the maps, and likely historic in the climate records for Minnesota.

Usually, I try and find some funny angle to work into an upcoming weather system. This one doesn't look so funny. It just looks potentially dangerous for a good chunk of western and central Minnesota.

Let's get to it.

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Incredible storm dynamics

I have to say my eyes keep popping as I look at the meteorological mechanics of this storm. The combination of a powerfully wound up low-pressure system, cold air, and the deep moisture feed can produce some incredible snowfall rates. Bands of heavy snow with rates of 1 to 3 inches per hour look likely Thursday.

Intense storm updrafts mean thundersnow is quite possible. Throw in winds gusting to 50 mph and you have a blizzard, especially west of the Twin Cities.

There is still some model spread, but most forecast models agree on the big picture forecast details.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Global Forecast System model paints a persistent zone of moderate to heavy snow from the Twin Cities north and west. The rain-sleet-snow line may approach the southeast Twin Cities Thursday.

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NOAA GFS model from 7 am CDT Wednesday to 7 am CDT Friday via tropical tidbits.

Snowfall: 1 to 2 feet?

There are still some forecast models differences in overall snowfall output. The big picture is the same. The heaviest snowfall zone favors western and central Minnesota.

The Twin Cities looks likely to ride the eastern edge of the heaviest snow zone, with rain and sleet mixing in for a drop off in snowfall totals in the southeast metro into southern Minnesota.

The potential for 1 to 2 feet of snow is there with this storm. The best chance of snowfall totals of 20 inches or more favors western Minnesota zones including towns like Canby, Morris, Redwood Falls, and Willmar.

Right now I'm leaning toward a range of 8 to 15-plus inches in most of the Twin Cities, with the best chance for 20-inch totals favoring the western metro running toward St. Cloud. Double-digit snowfall totals could run as far north as a Brainerd-Duluth-North Shore line.

NOAA's GFS model seems like a reasonable snowfall pattern estimate at this point pending today's forecast model runs. Yikes.

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NOAA GFS snowfall output via pivotal weather.

The usually trusty European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts model continues the trend of heavy snow in the Twin Cities Thursday.

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ECMWF model via Norwegian Met Institute.

Hefty snowfall up north

Here's the storm view for northern Minnesota from the NWS Duluth office.

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Blizzard warnings posted

Overall snowfall totals may be somewhat academic for travel conditions when you throw in winds gusting to 50 mph in open areas. Blizzard warnings are up for a big chunk of western and central Minnesota.

Including the cities of Morris, Glenwood, St Cloud, Madison,

Benson, Montevideo, Willmar, Litchfield, Granite Falls, Olivia,

and Redwood Falls

427 AM CDT Tue Apr 9 2019



* WHAT...Blizzard conditions expected. Total snow accumulations of

12 to 20 inches expected. Winds gusting as high as 50 mph.

* WHERE...Portions of central, southwest and west central


* WHEN...From 7 PM Wednesday to 7 AM CDT Friday.

* ADDITIONAL DETAILS...Travel could be very difficult to

impossible. Areas of blowing snow could significantly reduce

visibility. The hazardous conditions could impact the morning

or evening commute. Gusty winds could bring down tree branches.

Top 5 April snow event

This system has all the earmarks of a potential Top 5 April snow event for the Twin Cities and much of Minnesota.

Prepare for a major April winter storm event. Stay tuned as we watch Tuesday's model runs come in.

Programming note: I'm hosting a special one-hour Climate Cast on MPR News stations Wednesday at noon. I'll have the latest storm analysis at the beginning of the show Wednesday. My guest will be Minnesota DNR senior climatologist Kenny Blumenfeld. We'll break down the storm details and look at the history and climate context of April blizzards.