On edge of major weekend winter storm, quiet Christmas week ahead

Welcome to astronomical winter

The winter solstice is here. At precisely 11:11 am CST Saturday the sun reaches its farthest transit south of the equator and slowly begins the journey back northward.

Image: NASA

The shortest day of the year in Minnesota features just 8 hours and 46 minutes of daylight according to the US Naval Observatory.

The good news for daylight seekers? We start tacking on daylight this weekend and it increases until the summer solstice in June when we log 15 hours and 37 minutes in the days surrounding June 21st. Sunsets are already getting later in the evening, and the increase in evening daylight will be increasingly noticeable in the next 2 weeks.

The darkest days are behind us soon, and noticeably brighter days are just ahead.

Image: Paul Huttner/MPR News

Major weekend snow storm passes just southeast of Minnesota

Minnesota is on the northern edge of a major winter storm this weekend. The system is cranking up from Kansas City to Milwaukee this weekend. Travelers south or east from Minnesota will run into snow. If you are heading on I-35 or I-90/94 south or east to KC, Des Moines and eastern Iowa, Madison, Rockford, Chicago or Milwaukee you’re going to hit snow Saturday night and Sunday.

If you are heading to Omaha, I would consider taking the I-90 to Sioux Falls route, then dropping down to Omaha via I-29 to bypass the bulk of the storm. Des Moines will be on the edge of the heavier snowfall, and could pick up 3″ to 5″ this weekend.

The system will bring a few hours of light accumulating snow (maybe a couple of inches) Sunday to the metro with enough to shovel again, but the bulk of the heavier accumulating snows will be in southeast Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin into northern Illinois.

The surface low will track southeast of Chicago. This is an excellent track for heavy snow from KC to Milwaukee. The secondary ‘upper low’ will add some snowfall totals Sunday into Monday.

Image: NOAA

A host of weather warnings are flying across more than a dozen states in the central and northern US.

Image: NOAA

On the warm side of the storm, flood watches are flying along with a risk for severe weather…including a rare late December tornado risk.


Here’s a roundup on the system from NWS offices in the path of the storm.

NWS Kansas City:

Image: NWS Kansas City

NWS Quad Cities:

Image: NWS Quad Cities

NWS Milwaukee:

NWS Milwaukee

A band of 4″ to 8″+ will run from KC to Milwaukee with this storm. Ground zero for the heavy snow axis? Lawrence and Kansas City northeast to Ottumwa and Iowa City, to Freeport, IL through Janesville, Madison, Lake Geneva and Milwaukee.

Here’s the GFS snowfall output.

Image: NOAA via wxcaster.com

Some locally higher 8″ to 10″ totals could fall in southern Wisconsin. here’s a closer look at snowfall output from the Milwaukee NWS.

Image: Milwaukee NWS

Bottom Line: Expect heavy snow from KC through the southeast half of Iowa to the northwest suburbs if Chicago to Madison and Milwaukee this weekend. Travel will be impacted Saturday night and Sunday along these routes. Expect possible airport and flight delays at Kansas City (moderate to major), to Des Moines (minor to moderate) to Madison (major) to Chicago (moderate to major) to Milwaukee (moderate to major) this weekend.

Quiet Christmas Week

Christmas week look chilly, but relatively quiet across Minnesota. Temps will mostly hover in the teens with a few low 20s possible in the next few days. The coldest days look like Monday into Christmas Eve morning with sub-zero lows to around -12 in the metro. Temps should moderate by Christmas Day into the 20s.

Image: NOAA via Weatherspark

New Year’s Outlook

The models hint at milder temps and a possible brief thaw the weekend after Christmas. There are some signs of (light?) snow possible around new year’s Eve and Day. The GFS is hinting at a potential sub-zero shot to usher in the New Year.

Don’t bet the Christmas Tree on a 16-day outlook, but here it is from NOAA’s GFS model.

Image: GFS 16-day output via IPS Meteostar

Craig Edwards and Bill Endersen will be manning the weather lab next week. All my best to you and your loved ones for a safe and Merry Christmas this holiday season!