UPDATE (Saturday, Feb. 9, 2:59 p.m.): Wright County is now included in a major winter storm warning, according to the National Weather Service of the Twin Cities in Chanhassen.
The weather statement, issued today, states:
WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT TO 6 PM CST MONDAY...
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN TWIN CITIES/CHANHASSEN HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR HEAVY SNOW ALONG WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF SOME FREEZING RAIN AND SLEET... WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT TO 6 PM CST MONDAY. THE WINTER STORM WATCH IS NO LONGER IN EFFECT.
* SNOW ACCUMULATIONS: 5 TO 9 INCHES.
* TIMING: A WINTRY MIX IS EXPECTED TO ARRIVE LATE TONIGHT. THE PRECIPITATION WILL START AS A MIX OF SNOW AND FREEZING RAIN... AND THEN TRANSITION TO A RAIN AND SNOW MIX FOR A TIME... BEFORE SWITCHING BACK TO SNOW BY LATE SUNDAY MORNING.
* OTHER IMPACTS: STRONGER WINDS SUNDAY NIGHT AND MONDAY MAY LEAD TO AREAS OF BLOWING AND DRIFTING SNOW.
A WINTER STORM WARNING MEANS SIGNIFICANT AMOUNTS OF SNOW... SLEET... AND ICE ARE EXPECTED OR OCCURRING. STRONG WINDS ARE ALSO POSSIBLE. THIS WILL MAKE TRAVEL VERY HAZARDOUS OR IMPOSSIBLE.
UPDATE (Saturday, Feb. 9, 11:30 a.m.): The National Weather Service in Chanhassen has upgraded the weather advisory for areas west of St. Michael along the Interstate 94 corridor.
Sherburne, Stearns and other nearby counties, including the area of St. Cloud, have been included in a winter storm WARNING, issued Saturday around 11:30 a.m.
We will have more alerts as they are announced.
* * * *
Here we go again.
Monday morning’s commute could be a major mess, as the National Weather Service has issued a winter storm watch for the St. Michael area, Wright County and entire Twin Cities region, beginning early Sunday morning and continuing through Monday afternoon. Snow accumulations of up to 10 inches are possible.
The precipitation should begin with a light, wintry mix Saturday night, turning to heavy snow by late Sunday. To top it all off, strong winds on the back end of the front will result in blowing, drifting snow on Sunday night and Monday morning.
Minnesota Department of Transportation plow drivers and city plows are preparing for the possible "hard fight" in clearing roads in the St. Michael area, said J.P. Gillach, communications and public affairs director for Minnesota's District 3, which includes St. Michael and Albertville.
"In the St. Michael area, it's been a pretty busy season," Gillach said. "Not so much with the snow, but with fighting ice."
It's been a wet year with lots of freezing rain, which is a bigger challenge for keeping roads safe, he said. Salt supplies are good, but if temperatures drop below 20 degrees, the effectiveness of the salt drops off very quickly, he said. Plow drivers try to combat that by adding a larger quantity of salt.
"If it gets cold, it's going to be a hard fight," Gillach said. "The road conditions will certainly be sloppy."
He warns drivers that bridges and ramps get colder faster than roads, making them more slippery. But main highways could also get dangerously slippery.
"If there are scattered slippery spots, use your best driving skills," he said. "Slow down if you have any doubt."
Not only do bridges and ramps freeze faster, but MnDot plow drivers focus more on roads than ramps. And since ramps are used less often than regular roads and freeways, they stay slippery longer.
Plow drivers will works split shifts — 24 hours a day with two 12 hours shifts each day.
"We'll continue to do snow removal after the storm is gone, in our clean-up operation," Gillach said.
The local region isn’t getting hit nearly so hard as other areas of the country. A blizzard watch is in effect for western and central Minnesota, which could see more than a foot of snow, along with winds of up to 45 mph.
Meanwhile, the Northeast part of the country is preparing for a blizzard of historic proportions, with up to three feet of snow expected in areas around Boston. Airlines are already canceling flights to the region, and that’s having a ripple effect on schedules throughout the country. Travelers are advised to check airline websites before heading for the airport.