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The ultimate gift for Minnesota snow-lovers

Santa is at a loss for words, overcome with emotion. reports his sleigh got stuck a few times last night, but that may just be rumor and hearsay. What’s the one thing money can’t buy?

* Winter Storm Warnings continue: more moderate/heavy snow today, mixed with ice over southeastern MN and western WI.

* Storm totals of 10-15″ for the metro area, some 20″ amounts possible central & southwestern MN by the dinner hour Saturday.

* Accumulating snow into Saturday, flurries linger into Sunday.

* Blizzard warnings near the Dakota border and the Duluth area for white-out conditions today.

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* If we pick up at least 14.7″ of snow this will be the biggest snowstorm since March, 1999, the 11th biggest storm since 1891!

* Turning MUCH colder New Year’s Day, subzero weather likely for the first weekend of 2010.

Santa is at a loss for words, overcome with emotion. reports his sleigh got stuck a few times last night, but that may just be rumor and hearsay. What’s the one thing money can’t buy? A cool foot and a half of fresh snow, just in time for Christmas Day. Forget traffic hassle factors for the time being – you have to admit: it looks incredible out there right now, like a magical, shimmering Norman Rockwell painting come to life. I honestly can’t remember the last time we were digging out from over a foot of snow on Christmas Day – lately we’ve had some winters where locals were hoping and praying for a little snow on December 25, anything to avoid the specter of a “brown Christmas”. Roughly 3 out of the last 10 Christmases have been brown, with less than an inch of snow on the ground. Nice to have an old fashioned Christmas, smoke curling out of the chimney, big, fat, snowflakes bouncing off the kitchen window, the dog returning from “doing his business” covered, head to toe, in a fresh, hairy coating of white.

Let it snow, let it snow. Here is the GFS model showing additional snow today, tonight and Saturday. Another half foot (give or take) is expected in the Twin Cities metro by Saturday evening, maybe 8-10″ for the St. Cloud area. An additional 15″+ may paralyze far western Minnesota, much of the Dakotas and western Iowa, where blizzard conditions are expected later today and tonight. The farther west you travel, the worse conditions will be. No significant improvement is likely until Sunday.

Yes, our 3-4 day storm is rivaling last weekend’s wild snow that gripped Washington D.C., Philadelphia and New York. Only last week’s storm was over in less than 18 hours. The storm dropping moderate snow (and ice) on our heads is forecast to do one great big loop over Iowa later today, before finally lifting northeastward into Canada by Monday. That loop will prolong the storm an extra day or so, resulting in some very impressive snow amounts, 1 to 2 FEET across much of Minnesota. Some towns in central Minnesota will see nearly half a winter season’s worth of snow by the time the flakes stop falling late tomorrow, a few isolated 20-24″ amounts are possible from Marshall to Windom, Willmar and Glencoe – that’s almost 2 MONTH’S worth of snow falling in 3 days.

A slow-motion storm (with a flaky loop!). A whirlpool of unusually cold air aloft is nearly stationary over the Plains, causing the storm to slow down as it intensifies – and performs a highly unusual LOOP over Iowa later today and tonight, prolonging the snow an extra 12-24 hours!

So that’s why this is no garden-variety snowstorm. A few good reasons:

1). Ordinary storms don’t linger for 4 days. A series of disturbances hurtling southward out of Canada caused a storm in the Deep South to intensify, each surge of energy making the low pressure system more potent.

2). Moisture from the Gulf of Mexico was able to funnel north, right up the Mississippi Valley. Normally a storm tracking into Iowa would pull enough warm air into Minnesota for a changeover to ice and rain – that may still happen south/east of the Twin Cities today, keeping amounts down in Rochester, Winona and Eau Claire, WI. Temperatures throughout the lowest mile of the atmosphere stayed just below freezing, keeping precipitation falling as mostly snow across most of the state.

3). During the 1991 Halloween Blizzard weather systems were locked in a blocking pattern, a stalled storm off the coast of Cape Cod caused another deep area of low pressure to become marooned over Lake Superior, producing a 3-day snow event that – to this day – is unrivaled. I don’t think we’ll ever see 28.4″ of snow over 3 days, at least not in our lifetime. Think of this storm as the “little sister” of the Halloween Superstorm. Same overall concept, just enough differences to mean total snow of 12-15″ instead of 28.4″.

Paul’s Outlook for the Twin Cities

Today: Winter Storm Warning. Snow, windier with treacherous travel, getting worse the farther west you travel, toward the Dakota line (where Blizzard Warnings are posted). Some ice may mix in with the snow, especially eastern suburbs of St. Paul into western WI. Winds: NE 15-25+ High: 32

Tonight: Winter Storm Warning. More snow, heavy at times. Low: 24

Saturday: Snow gradually tapers off as the day goes on. Total accumulations of 12-15″ expected across much of central MN. A few towns in the far western and southwestern metro may pick up 20″. Winds: N 10-20. High: 26 (falling steadily during the day).

Sunday: Lingering clouds and flurries. High: 25

Monday: Intervals of sun, seasonably cool. High: 24

Tuesday: Mix of clouds and sun, chilly. High: near 22

Wednesday: Clouds increase, flurries/light snow possible late. High: 25

New Year’s Eve: Flurries taper, turning windy and much colder. High: 15 (falling rapidly)

A stretch of subzero weather seems likely the end of next week and the first weekend of next year.