MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Prince was wrong. It’s not “Sometimes It Snows In April.” It’s “Always It Snows In April.”
OK, it only seems that way after the brutal winter we had this year, and the extended winter we had last year. But many Minnesotans are understandably at the breaking point with the news that a spring snowstorm is expected to dump possibly more than a foot of snow in many parts of the state.
The National Weather Service has issued winter storm warnings for most of the state, including the Twin Cities. The warning is in effect from Thursday afternoon until Friday night.
WCCO-TV director of meteorology Mike Augustyniak says that the storm should begin with a wintry mix in the Twin Cities. Then it will eventually begin to turn over into heavy, wet snow late Thursday into Friday morning. The period of accumulating snow could last up to 12 hours, Augustyniak said.
The further southeast of the Twin Cities you are, the more likely it is you’ll see the precipitation in the form of rain or freezing drizzle. WCCO-TV chief meteorologist Chris Shaffer said Minnesotans may even experience thundersnow.
A line stretching from west central Minnesota up through much of the eastern border between Duluth and the Twin Cities could get from 10 to 16 inches of snow, Augustyniak said. That area includes St. Cloud.
Totals closer to the downtowns of Minneapolis and St. Paul could be closer to 6 to 10 inches.
Also, strong winds (with gusts up to 20 mph) will begin to whip up starting very early Friday, which will make for difficult travel conditions as the snow is expected to fall throughout the morning commute.
If the storm fulfills its potential and delivers more than 10 inches of snow, that would mark the Twin Cities’ largest April snowstorm since 1983, when 13.6 inches fell at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
The melt is expected to begin with above freezing temperatures Friday. Weekend temperatures with highs in the upper 40s should make quick work of much of the snow. By the middle of next week, Minnesotans could see highs in the 60s.
Done Patching Potholes, Revving Up The Plows
In the metro on Thursday, crews stopped patching potholes and began getting their snowplows ready. Roads were not pre-treated in advance of the storm, as any rain early on would just wash away the chemicals.
“It’s Minnesota, so we are kind of use to the potholes and kind of use to the snow, especially since it’s April now,” said MnDOT spokeswoman Kristin Klein. “So [crews] just have to switch gears and get out into the plows again.”
MnDOT crews will be out in full force overnight Thursday and into Friday. They will work 12 hour shifts in order to deal with the anticipated snowfall.
“Once the snow starts, we are going to have crews out 24/7, just like we’ve done in the past storms that we’ve had,” Klein said. “We’ll be out there until we get the roads clear.”
The plowing will not be easy, because the snow is expected to hit during the evening commute. Still, Klein stresses that plows will be out there, even if traffic is moving slowly.
MnDOT crews have dealt with storms this late in the season before, but this year has been hard on the budget. The latest snowstorm puts MnDOT above average for both materials and staff.
However, officials say there is a contingency plan in place, and MnDOT will not break the bank when trying to clear the roads.
If you have to travel during the storm, call 511 to get the latest updates on road conditions.
Southwestern Minnesotans Dust Off Snowblowers
Folks in Willmar were celebrating snow-free fields and front lawn. But the fun is over, for now.
Small-engine mechanic Brad Lang should be working on mowers. But at his shop in Cosmos, the snowblowers and snowmobiles are still coming in for repairs. Winter just got a little longer.
“Bringing them in already. I got one in already now to fix, and there’s a couple people looking for ones to buy, too,” Lang said. “You never know in Minnesota.”
Meeker County farm fields had been free of their white, winter blankets. But a steel-grey sky ushered in an April surprise. Wind turbines began spinning as the snow started falling.
Residents like Patty Allen got an early taste of what’s ahead. Just as she was preparing for spring planting, Mother Nature lowered the boom.
“It’s been a long one, that’s for sure,” Allen said. “We’ve moved a lot of snow and we were down to the seeing our grass, so not enjoying this.”
In the small town of Lake Lillian, plow driver Chuck Molitor stands ready for whatever nature dishes out.
“Been there before,” Molitor said. “Put the plow truck away for the summer and had to get it in case we need it.”
MnDOT crews are already out spreading salt along Highway 12.
“Only consolation is I won’t have to plow too wide,” he said. “You do what you got to do.”
By mid afternoon, radar images caught the mass of moisture moving in, and it wasn’t long before light rain began turning to snow.
Shiloh Maiwald is driving to the Twin Cities from Willmar for a weekend convention. But the weather is pushing her to leave earlier than planned.
“We were going tomorrow but heading out today instead,” Maiwald said.
As seasoned Minnesotans learn, winter’s not really over until the sweet corn’s ready.
“Thought we were done with winter,” she said. “Tired of it.”
On the positive side, farmers say they can still use the moisture. They’re hoping whatever does fall, be it rain or heavy wet snow, soaks into the fields.