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Spring storm to blast Upper Midwest with wintry conditions this weekend

By
Alex Sosnowski, Accuweather.com
Winter storm watches were in effect across portions of Minnesota and Wisconsin. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI
Winter storm watches were in effect across portions of Minnesota and Wisconsin. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo

March 28 (UPI) -- A storm emerging from the Rockies after burying the region under heavy spring snow will turn to the Upper Midwest with wintry weather this weekend, as it triggers life-threatening severe weather and tornadoes in the south-central United States.

Winter storm watches are in effect across portions of Minnesota and Wisconsin as of Friday morning as the "strong spring storm" looms for the area.

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"We are tracking a storm that is likely to bring accumulating snow and gusty winds from the Arrowhead of Minnesota to parts of central Minnesota and northern Wisconsin this weekend," AccuWeather meteorologist Matt Benz said.

Even though the air will be marginally cold with the storm outside of the Rockies and High Plains, where up to 12 inches of snow was forecast through Friday night, it will still be cold enough to allow snow to fall from Saturday evening to Sunday.

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The marginal temperatures will make forecasting the precise amount of snowfall in the region difficult, since some of the snow will melt as it falls, especially on paved and concrete surfaces.

Snow can reach the ground even when the temperature is above freezing. This can occur when the air above the ground is below freezing, allowing snowflakes to form without melting in the lower part of the atmosphere.

"A general 1-3 inches of snow is forecast, mainly on non-paved surfaces from near the border of South Dakota and Minnesota, northeastward to the north shore of Lake Superior in Ontario," Benz said.

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"But there will be a zone of heavier snowfall, on the order of 3-6 inches, with an AccuWeather Local StormMax of 8 inches over the Arrowhead of Minnesota," he added.

Duluth, Minn., averages about 13 inches of snow during March. But, prior to this storm, only about 4 inches of snow has fallen this month. Duluth has received about 82 inches of snow this season as of March 27, which is about 7 inches above average.

"Storms of this nature around Lake Superior can act a lot like a nor'easters that affect the Atlantic coast," Benz said.

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"Winds can funnel across a large portion of the lake and can really howl through the Twin Ports of Duluth and Superior, Wisconsin, with spectacular waves crashing ashore," he explained.

With the persistence of above-average lake levels and the lake surfaces largely free of ice, lake shore flooding and erosion are of concern. The total extent of ice coverage across the Great Lakes is only at 5.7 percent, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory National Ice Center. At this time last year, nearly one-quarter of the surface of the Great Lakes was covered in ice.

"Locations such as the Duluth Lake Walk and Park Point, as well as many areas along the southern shore of northern Wisconsin will be at risk for flooding and erosion," Benz said.

The same storm responsible for snow and wind over the western part of Lake Superior will bring strong winds to much of the Great Lakes region this weekend.

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Anywhere the wind blows onshore for a few hours there will be the risk of lake shore flooding and erosion. In addition to these hazards, winds can become strong enough to lead to sporadic power outages, break large tree limbs and lead to airline delays and flight turbulence.

Winds can gust to as high as 60 mph around the shores of Lake Superior during Saturday night and around lakes Michigan, Huron, Erie and Ontario on Sunday.

In the wake of the storm, most days next week are forecast to be free of precipitation across the region.

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