As March draws to a close, many people have their minds on more spring-like weather. Heck, we're mere days away from April. How could people not? Unfortunately, Mother Nature has other plans this week.
There has been a lot of discussion around this week's storm. Early model data was suggesting a heavy dose of winter was going to sweep through the region, with ice and heavy snow offering a one-two punch of late season "gross" to end the month.
If you follow the weather in the Northland at all, you often hear about storms shifting track or small details that could greatly change the outcome of winter storms. Those very factors made early forecasting for this storm difficult too, with questions about the exact storm path and when freezing rain would turn to snow leading to ice and snow accumulation predictions difficult.
As the system is expected to approach later today, we now have a much clearer picture of what to expect.
The Twin Ports area can expect to see precipitation push into the area Tuesday evening, likely starting off as rain by around 7 pm. This is expected to shift to mixed precipitation, including some sleet, through the evening. The changeover to snow for the Twin Ports is expected to happen Wednesday morning, sometime between 5 and 7 am.
This places the Wednesday morning commute at the center of a time when roads could be at their worst during this system. While there won't be lots of snow, roads could be slippery, so be sure to use extra caution.
Snow will persist in the Duluth-Superior area into the day on Wednesday, with a chance of seeing a transition back to mixed precipitation in the afternoon hours as temperatures warm some. Things are expected to shift back to snow Wednesday evening, before tapering off Wednesday night.
Elsewhere across the Northland, precipitation will follow a similar timing, with folks to the west seeing an earlier start and finish, while those to the east will see a later start and finish as the storm moves through.
Where has the greatest risk of freezing rain?
According to their Tuesday morning update, the Duluth office of the National Weather Service is thinking areas through Northern Wisconsin, spanning from Hayward toward Hurley and Phillips have the greatest odds. They are forecasting a band of potential ice accumulations in a band between Phillips and Hurley that could range upwards of a quarter to a half an inch of ice.
While that area has the greatest potential for ice, much of the Northland has a chance to see at least a light glaze of ice from this storm, as seen below.
How much snow will we get?
For much of the Northland, the answer is "not much". The biggest concern for most of the Northland is simply that there is a potential for some ice and snow that could make for slippery driving conditions.
That said, don't let the lack of heavy snow deceive you. As we saw with the last storm that swept through, a couple inches of wet snow on top of ice or slush can make for very slippery and dangerous driving conditions, so be cautious on the roads during this storm.
A vast majority of Northern Minnesota is expected to see 1-2 inches of snow, while the Twin Ports area up toward Two Harbors could see 2-3 inches. The far northern reaches of the Minnesota Arrowhead and into the Bayfield Peninsula and areas east of Ashland have the potential to see more, as seen below.
What comes after the storm?
Storms are usually followed by a change in weather. Winter storms are often followed by a blast of cold weather. What about after this storm?
Don't get too excited, but there is a slight warmup in the forecast.
After hanging out in the 30s for the best part of the last week, we'll see clearing and 38 on Thursday, but Friday and Saturday could bring temperatures in the mid-40s as April gets underway. Sunday and Monday look slightly cooler, around 40, but getting further into next week, we rebound back into the mid-40s.
How far from "normal" are these temperatures?
NOAA data shows that for Duluth, the average daytime high for the final week of March range between about 40 and 42 degrees, so it has been slightly colder than average. As for April, the average daytime high for April 1 is 42.5 degrees. that's right on pace for our forecast for Friday and into this weekend.
If you're wondering, Duluth's average daytime high slowly trends upward each day, going above the 50 degree mark on April 18. So, while we'll (hopefully) see some warmer days sooner rather than later, historically speaking the second half of April is when we "normally" spend our days above 50.