Region under winter weather advisory

Blowing snow, new            Washington County and St. Croix County in Wisconsin are under a winter weather advisory from 9 p.m. tonight until 6 p.m. Thursday as a powerful winter storm is poised to move across the Great Plains.

The National Weather Service office in Chanhassen also issued a blizzard warning for tonight and Thursday in Steele and Freeborn counties in southern Minnesota and a winter storm warning for Goodhue, Rice, Waseca, Faribault and Martin counties in Minnesota and Pierce, Pepin, Dunn, Chippewa and Eau Claire counties in Wisconsin.

This latest winter storm is forecast to affect travel across the region as many people begin holiday trips today and Friday.

NWS forecasters said the St. Croix Valley should see snow develop late this afternoon and increase in intensity tonight, followed by strong northwest winds Thursday morning.

About two to four inches of snow is expected in the Valley by Thursday afternoon along with northwest winds 15 to 25 mph and occasional gusts up to 30 mph, forecasters said.

“The main impact is blowing and drifting snow that could make for difficult travel on Thursday,” said an NWS statement. “Visibilities will be limited due to a combination of falling and blowing snow. Use caution when traveling, especially in open areas.”

Forecasters said that although the bulk of the storm takes heavy snow across Iowa and Wisconsin, forecast models show the system shifting slightly to the northwest. The strong winds accompanying the storm would make travel difficult in south of the Twin Cities.

“Sustained wind speeds from 15 to 30 mph, along with gusts in the 30- to 40-mph range are possible,” forecasters said. “This would likely result in considerable blowing and drifting snow with blizzard conditions expected in Steele and Freeborn counties and near blizzard conditions in the rest of southern Minnesota.

Thursday will be blustery across the Valley with a high in the middle 20s and snow ending around noon. Thursday night will be partly cloudy, windy and cold with a low near 6 and northwest winds 13 to 20 mph, dropping wind chill readings from minus-9 to 1 above.

Friday will be sunny breezy and cold with a high near 19 and northwest winds 5 to 10 mph, producing wind-chill readings of minus-10 to 0. Winds will finally diminish by Friday night with lows in the upper single digits.

The Christmas holiday weekend will be quiet with periods of sun and clouds, highs in the 20s and lows in the single digits to teens.

Christmas Eve Monday will be cloudy with a high near 25 and low around 15. Christmas Day will see a slight chance of snow, a high near 23 and low near 10.