Thanksgiving Storm: Biggest travel woes Wednesday

What would the biggest travel week of the year be without a series of big winter storms?

A band of heavy snow blasted Eastern North Dakota and northern Minnesota Monday. Fargo & Moorhead got whacked with 10″+, and totals well over 6″ ran from the Red River Valley into International Falls. Orr picked up 8+” with Monday’s storm. Travel will remain very tough in these areas into Tuesday morning.

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Pre-Thanksgiving Storm?

There are still several questions surrounding a winter storm this week, but there are also a few things I think are coming into focus. Let’s walk through the big travel week’s weather and try to give you what useful information I can as you plan holiday travel.

What we think we know: (Likely scenarios…80%+ confidence)

-Tuesday will be the best travel weather day of the week in most of the Upper Midwest. If you can travel Tuesday…do it. Expect a mix of sun and clouds…mostly dry weather and temps in the 20s.

-Wednesday may be the worst travel day of the week, especially PM. A mixed bag of rain, freezing rain and snow may fall in the southern half of Minnesota (including the metro) with all snow likely in the northern half of Minnesota. Snow totals could be heavy with potentially 6″+ up north. **There is the potential for a significant ice event for the metro and central Minnesota Wednesday.**

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NCEP SREF Model ensemble paints possible positions of 850 millibar (5,000feet) freezing line near Twin Cities Wednesday. This could mean freezing rain or rain instead of mostly snow for the metro.

-There will be a potent low pressure system moving through Wednesday and Thursday. The track, timing and temperature profile are subject to change so stay tuned for forecast changes as we head through the week.

-Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday will be windy and much colder! Highs may not climb out of the teens in much of Minnesota with blowing snow and below zero wind chills.

Lingering uncertainties:

There are still some major questions reagrding storm #3 this week.

-It appears the storm have a significant “dry slot” in Minnesota Wednesday night into early Thanksgiving Day. This may shut off or reduce precip for several hours…trimming potential snow amounts.

-Snow totals: It looks like the main shot of precip will come on the front side of the storm Wednesday. It should be mostly snow from St. Cloud north. It COULD be a mixed bag of freezing rain and snow in the metro, and potentially mostly rain to the south. If Wednesday’s precip in the metro falls mostly as freezing rain…that will make for icy travel but reduce snow amounts accordingly.

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84 hour NAM snowfall suggests lighter snow totals in metro, and maybe a foot inland fron the North Shore.

It is possible that the Twin Cities may escape heavy snowfall with this storm, and see mostly ice or even rain instead.

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Metro temps near or above freezing Wednesday?

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Models not cranking out heavy snow for the metro at this point.

The snowfall bull’s eye with this storm appears to aimed at the northern half of Minnesota…where 6″+ snowfall totals are possible Wednesday into Thanksgiving Day.

Bottom line:

-Expect the best travel Tuesday, Friday and Saturday this week. Expect the worst travel Wednesday and Thanksgiving Day.

-Travel will generally be better south and east (Madison, Chicago)…and generally be worse north and west. (Fargo, Brainerd, Iron Range & Duluth)

Stay tuned for more model runs and hopefully some more specific snow (and ice!) forecast totals Tuesday.


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