Storm clips St. Croix Valley

Powerful storm brings blizzard conditions to southern Minnesota

The St. Croix Valley was clipped by the northern edge of a powerful winter storm that brought blizzard conditions to parts of southern and southeastern Minnesota and southern Wisconsin.

The National Weather Service office in Chanhassen dropped a winter weather advisory for Washington County today, but that same advisory remained in effect for St. Croix County in Wisconsin.

Light snow fell overnight in the Valley, slowing the morning commute today. Snow was expected to end early this afternoon, but NWS forecasters said strong north to northwest winds follow the snow, dropping wind chill readings below zero.

Winds of 20 to 25 mph, with gusts up to 35 mph, are likely this afternoon in the Valley, forecasters said. Blustery conditions will continue tonight with northwest winds 18 to 23 mph early, diminishing to 10 to 15 mph after midnight.

“Wind-chill readings will drop into the teens below zero late tonight,” forecaster said.

This latest winter storm, striking one day before the first day of winter, caused delays for travelers days before the Christmas holiday weekend. Minnesota and Wisconsin counties just to the south and east of Washington County were under a winter storm warning. Numerous counties in southern Minnesota, southern Wisconsin and northeastern Iowa were under a blizzard warning until 6 p.m. today.

Cities under that blizzard warning included Rochester, Owatonna, Waseca, Fairmont, Albert Lea and Austin.

Forecasters warned travelers on the Interstate 35 and I-90 corridors that heavy snow and strong winds would reduce visibilities.

“Snow will taper off this morning, then northwest winds will strengthen and produce considerable blowing and drifting snow through the afternoon,” forecasters said. “The combination of freshly fallen snow and northwest winds of 30 mph with gusts between 40 and 50 mph will cause considerable blowing and drifting snow and visibilities near zero at times. This will lead to whiteout conditions making travel extremely dangerous. Do not travel.”

Forecasters said windy conditions would continue in the Valley Friday, but skies will clear. Highs are expected near 20, with wind-chill values from minus-7 to 3. Friday night will be clear and cold with lows near 5 and calm winds.

Saturday and Sunday will be sunny to partly sunny and cold with highs in the low to middle 20s and lows in the mid-single digits Saturday night and low teens Sunday night.

A slight chance of snow returns to the Valley forecast Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with highs in the low to middle 20s and lows from 7 to 11.