Valley under winter storm watch this weekend

            Central and southern Minnesota, including the Twin Cities and St. Croix Valley, is under a winter storm watch from Saturday night through Sunday afternoon.

The National Weather Service issued the winter storm watch Friday after NWS forecasters in Chanhassen said the second of two snow events forecast for the region this weekend has the potential to develop into a significant winter storm with near-blizzard conditions.

After a sunny start Friday, skies turned cloudy and NWS forecasters said there was a 50 percent chance of snow with accumulations of less than a half-inch possible. Snow was expected to linger through midnight today with a low falling to near 23.

“Snow accumulation from one to three inches is possible mainly along and south of the Minnesota River Valley region,” said NWS forecasters. “The snow will push eastward across southern Minnesota this afternoon and reach the Twin Cities and south to near Waseca by later afternoon. By midnight, the snow will have ended across the west and tapered to flurries in the east.”

But it’s a second system the NWS is watching closely that’s expected to spread snow across the region starting Saturday night.

“The second system has the potential of developing into a significant winter storm for much of the area,” forecasters said.

Along with the winter storm watch over southern Minnesota, western Wisconsin is under a similar watch from midnight Saturday to midnight Sunday. Forecasters said the watch area is north of a line from Mankato to Red Wing to Eau Claire, Wis.

Forecasters said snow would spread into western Minnesota Saturday evening and east across central and southern Minnesota and into west central Wisconsin late Saturday night. Periods of heavy are possible with a potential for 5- to 7-inch accumulations.

Along with snow, forecasters said gusty winds and cold temperatures could drop wind chill readings well below zero Sunday night.

“Strong northwest winds will develop over western Minnesota Sunday night and could cause near-blizzard conditions,” forecasters said.

Forecasters added that a blizzard watch has not been issued due to uncertainty about snow amounts and whether blowing snow could reduce visibilities to a quarter-mile.

Although Sunday’s forecast calls for a high of 32, forecasters said temperatures would fall into the single digits above zero Sunday night with west to northwest winds 16 to 20 mph and gusts up to 30 mph.

“Sunday night wind chill values will be minus-15 to minus-20 degrees,” forecasters said.

Monday is expected to be sunny, but cold with a high near 16. Monday will be partly cloudy and cold with a low near 10.

The Valley gradually warms up Tuesday and Wednesday with highs in the upper 20s Tuesday and near freezing Wednesday.