Snow hits; Sheriff, NWS warn against travel tonight

Published 1:53 pm Monday, December 28, 2015

Cars drive on Interstate 90 Monday shortly after noon as snow begins falling as a large snow storm moves into the area. Jason Schoonover/

Cars drive on Interstate 90 Monday shortly after noon as snow begins falling as a large snow storm moves into the area. Jason Schoonover/

CANCELATIONS: Smart Transit is closing all services and routes in Albert Lea and Austin at 5 p.m.; Riverland Community College (all sites); Austin YMCA preschool, gymnastics, swim programs and youth tennis; VFW Bingo; Mayo Clinic Health System in Adams and LeRoy; LeRoy Community dinner was canceled. 

The snow is here.

A winter storm has arrived, and The National Weather Service is calling for 6 to 10 inches — along with 8 to 12 inches or more in peak spots — of snow in Austin and to parts of central Minnesota and Wisconsin on Monday.

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As of 2 p.m. the Minnesota Department of Transportation listed Interstate 90 and U.S. Highway 218 through Mower County as patchy, though many roads to the east were completely covered.

Meteorologist Dan Jones of The National Weather Service said the majority of the snow will hit Austin from 3 to 9 p.m. Monday, with some flurries throughout the night.

“Right now we are looking at probably mid-afternoon into the evening, as far as when the heaviest snowfall accumulations will be,” Jones said.

The National Weather Service issued a winter storm watch on Sunday, starting Monday afternoon for Austin and the surrounding area. The weather service said the storm will spread across central and southern Minnesota and move into west Central Wisconsin, bringing snow, sleet and freezing rain. Jones said this type of weather is common during winter, but travel conditions will deteriorate once the heavier snowfall starts.

Mower County Sheriff Terese Amazi warned drivers not to go out if they don’t have to.

“If you don’t need to travel, don’t,” she said. “Be safe, stay home.”

Amazi recalled a time when a driver was trapped in their vehicle on a main road for several hours during a snow storm once. Jones mirrored Amazi’s warning.

“If you can plan any travel at all and hold it off for another day, I would be doing that,” he said.

The weather service is also calling for 30 to 40 mph winds that could cause drifting and reduced visibility.

“The wind will pick up, but as far as the strongest [time] goes, they’ll probably be in the mid- to late afternoon, and then during the evening time it looks like the wind will start to die off,” Jones said.

Jones clarified he would not call the storm a blizzard, but visibility will be reduced and there could be some drifting snow and blowing snow once the heavier snowfall starts.

The heavy snowfall would add to what has otherwise been a quiet winter in the upper Midwest. Snow accumulation was running well behind averages for this time of year in both states, even after a spate of post-Christmas snowfall.

A winter storm on Saturday left up to 3 inches of snow in the Twin Cities metro while parts of southwestern Minnesota received 8 inches.

The snow could push Austin near a record for precipitation in a year. Austin has seen 44.87 inches of precipitation so far this year, and the record is 46.01 inches. While Jones said this storm could put Austin close to breaking the record, it likely won’t push it over the line.

“I think we’ll be close to it, but I don’t think we’ll probably break it, at least for right now,” he said.