If there is good news in the forecast for a storm arriving this weekend, it’s coming from a reduced forecast for heavy wet snow but that could bring freezing rain and ice accumulation.
The wintry mix, more typical of the advancing spring, is expected to arrive in waves beginning Friday night through Sunday morning, the National Weather Service in Duluth reported.
In a storm update Thursday, March 3, the weather service reported a significant change — decreased snow accumulations, which could have been in double-digits, but increased expectations for ice. The weather service said the wintry mix is expected to include freezing rain causing ice accumulations of 0.1 inch up to 0.3 inches, sleet and heavy, wet snow up to 6 inches.
The weather service reported the timing and transition to ice make it more difficult to confidently predict the probability of how much snow may fall and how much may come down in a more liquid form. The storm is expected to bring more snow to Duluth and the North Shore, with a 24% chance of 4 inches of snow or more in the Brainerd and Baxter areas, with the potential for more snow in the southeast corner of Crow Wing County.
That potential for a heavier accumulation stretches from the middle of Morrison County, clipping the top of Mille Lacs County and stretching across most of Aitkin County. Other areas outside of the main path, including all of Cass County, could expect lighter snowfall amounts. Rain is more likely to the east of the storm, where temperatures are expected to be warmer, meaning there is the potential for a thunderstorm in southern Minnesota.
“Travel conditions Saturday night and Sunday morning could be especially treacherous since snow will accumulate on top of any ice accumulations we receive during the day Saturday,” the weather service reported in the update.
For the Brainerd lakes area, a light wintry mix, with potential for a mix of snow, sleet, freezing rain and/or rain, could be expected as Saturday begins continuing to 6 p.m. Saturday, when it could become heavier through the night before turning to light snow from midnight Saturday to 6 a.m. Sunday.
Significant icing could be part of this storm but the weather service noted it was too early Thursday night to be more specific about how much and just where the line will be as the storm cuts across the state. More information is expected on this storm Friday morning.
“Uncertainty remains on just how much icing and snow will be, but there is concern for hazardous travel conditions Saturday and Saturday night,” the weather service reported. “Some areas will likely see snow accumulations on top of already icy roads. If you have travel conditions on Saturday, and especially Saturday night, consider changing your plans, and avoid travel if you can!”
Motorists who do travel are advised to slow down, keep distances between vehicles, wear seat belts, turn on their vehicle’s lights and to not use cruise control.
In the Brainerd lakes area, temperatures may be near 32 degrees Saturday with a chance for snow, freezing rain, and sleet before noon followed by rain, freezing rain and sleet likely between noon and 3 p.m. with more of the same possibly mixed with snow after 3 p.m.
Overnight Saturday into Sunday morning, there could be 1-3 inches of snow and sleet possible. Sunday’s high may be 28 degrees on a blustery day. Monday may top out at 27 and Tuesday could bring warmer temperatures of 32 degrees with sun and gusty winds. By Wednesday there is a slight chance of more snow and freezing rain and a chance for snow Thursday with temperatures remaining below freezing.
The normal high temperature by this date is 34 degrees.
Even as winter is reluctant to end, spring is inexorably on the way. It officially arrives March 20.
With the above normal snowpack from this productive winter, there is a higher than normal chance of flooding on the Mississippi River at Aitkin and Fort Ripley. Much will depend on the spring weather and how fast temperatures increase, whether nights remain much cooler, if rain arrives and all of the things that go into a controlled snow melt.