The National Weather Service in Duluth just upped the ante when it comes to the amount of snow expected for the Brainerd lakes area.
What was first forecast Monday as a potential for 6 inches on Tuesday, April 9, was almost tripled to a possible 16 inches of snow for Crow Wing County. The snow is expected to begin sometime after midnight Wednesday, April 10, with the heaviest, wet snow likely to fall Thursday and the storm's end expected about noon Friday.
And to top things off, wind gusts are expected to be as high as 45 mph.
Meteorologists with the NWS work 24-7 on updating the agency's forecast using multiple weather models to report the most accurate data. The closer the storm is to its destination, the more accurate the data will be. A storm can shift directions at any time, which could be the case in the upcoming storm.
The NWS in Duluth issued a winter storm watch in effect from late Wednesday night through Friday morning for Cass, Crow Wing and Aitkin counties, to include the cities of Pine River, Brainerd, Hill City and Aitkin, much of northeast Minnesota and all of northwest Wisconsin. Heavy snow is possible with total snow accumulations of 9-16 inches and winds gusting as high as 45 mph.
Bill Leatham, NWS meteorologist in Duluth, Tuesday said Brainerd is expected to fall on the higher end of the expected range, closer to 16 inches of snow. The southern half of Crow Wing County sits in the path of the storm where 12-plus inches is expected and the northern half and most of Cass County sits in the path where 8-10 inches is expected. The storm's path of 12-plus inches reaches as far north to Duluth and Silver Bay to the east into Wisconsin past Ashland and Hayward. If the storm shifts southeast, Brainerd could see less snow.
The National Weather Service in Chanhassen issued a winter storm watch for Morrison, Mille Lacs, Todd and Wadena counties as well as the Twin Cities metro area, extending south to the Minnesota-Iowa border. A portion of southwestern Minnesota, extending northward to Stearns County, is under a blizzard warning from 7 p.m. Wednesday through 7 a.m. Friday. Totals in that area are expected to be 12-18 inches, with isolated amounts as high as 20 inches possible.
How does this snowstorm compare to past years? Leatham compiled data for April 10-12 for Brainerd's past snow events. Brainerd had 15 inches of snow April 10, 2008; 6.3 inches of snow April 11, 2013; and 3.5 inches of snow April 12, 1983.
Snow is not the only factor to think about when traveling during the upcoming storm. The high wind gusts are also concerning, Leatham said. He said the winds will start Wednesday during the day and pick up at night, with the highest winds Thursday morning, when the heaviest snow is supposed to fall.
"Travel could be very difficult to impossible," the NWS reports. "Patchy blowing snow could significantly reduce visibility. The hazardous conditions could impact the morning or evening commute."
The NWS reported a chance of rain showers before 8 p.m. Wednesday, with the rain expected to change to snow showers about 9 p.m. The chance of precipitation is 50 percent. The low temperature is projected to be around 27 degrees and it is expected to be blustery, with a northeast wind of 15-20 mph and gusts as high as 30 mph.
On Thursday, the snow is expected to be heavy at times, with an 80 percent chance of precipitation. A high near 35 degrees is expected and it will be windy-with wind gusts as high as 35-45 mph. There is a chance of snow showers before noon Friday, and a chance of rain after 1 p.m., with a high near 37.
The NWS predicts mostly sunny skies for the weekend with temperatures in the lower to mid-40s.
The NWS reminded motorists of winter driving safety measures, including:
• Clearing snow and ice from windows and lights;
• Braking early and leaving twice the amount of room for stopping;
• Not using cruise control in wintry conditions;
• Not cutting in front of other vehicles; and
• Taking it slow, delaying travel if feasible.
The weather service reported the flood warning continues along the Mississippi River at Aitkin and Fort Ripley. As recent warmer temperatures and rainfall combined with the runoff from the melting snowpack have kept the river levels hovering around flood stage. River levels are expected to rise back into flood stage by mid to late week.
The Mississippi River at Fort Ripley was at 9.8 feet at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. Flood stage is 10 feet. The water could rise to 10.4 feet by Friday morning. At 10 feet, the water will cause minor flooding of low lying areas adjacent to the river. This crest compares to a previous crest of 10.3 feet on May 22, 2015.
The Mississippi River near Aitkin was at 12.4 feet at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday. Flood stage is 13 feet, and the boat ramp at Aitkin City Park begins to flood when the river reaches that level. A few driveways also may be covered in water in the Cedarbrook neighborhood, the weather service reported.