'Real' spring set to arrive Friday in Northland
Convertibles will have their tops down, motorcycles will be plying the highways and we should see our first shorts and T-shirts of the season this weekend when highs under mostly sunny skies are expected to rise to near 60 degrees in Duluth for the first time since Oct. 16.
But first, one more blast of winter.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning from 7 p.m. today through noon Tuesday for Duluth, Superior, Cloquet, the North Shore and all of Northwestern Wisconsin. The warning stretches south to the Twin Cities.
The heaviest snow is expected to fall from the Twin Cities along a line north and east through Siren, Hayward, Ashland, Ironwood and into Michigan's Upper Peninsula -- where 7 to 11 inches of new snow could fall by Tuesday morning.
To the north, a narrow line of 5 to 9 inches is likely along a line from Sandstone and Hinckley, through Cloquet and the Twin Ports, Two Harbors and the North Shore.
Conditions will deteriorate rapidly from a sunny, pleasant morning in the Twin Ports to light snow by late afternoon and heavy snow by sunset, said Steve Gohde, observation program leader for the Weather Service in Duluth.
Farther north, along a line from Brainerd through the Iron Range and into the Arrowhead, 3 to 6 inches is expected, with lesser amounts farther north and west.
South of the Twin Cities, heavy rain is expected to fall overnight. And even as far north as Duluth, thunderstorms could break out during the snowfall, boosting snowfall rates as high as two inches per hour.
As of today Duluth has seen 41.8 inches of snow in April, more than 10 inches above the city's previous monthly record. There was two feet of snow on the ground at the Duluth airport this morning, the latest for so much snow.
The seasonal snowfall total stands at 120.4 inches, fifth place on the list of Duluth's snowiest winters. Fourth place is 121 inches in the winter of 1968-69, which likely will be broken tonight. The all-time record is 15 inches away -- 135.4 inches set in 1995-96.
Flooding potential increases
With all that snow on the ground -- two feet in Duluth and three feet farther north -- that's the same as several inches of rain. If temperatures warm up and stay, that snow will melt fast, Gohde said.
The Northland's terrain, with ample hills, wetlands, lakes and rivers, usually mitigates any flood problems. But any large rainfall events over the next two weeks could cause problems.
"My concern is that the snowpack ripens (turns soft and melts) and then we get a lot of rain on top of that, we could see some problems,'' Gohde said. "Usually even a fast melt on its own isn't a problem up here."
Frequent trouble spots in the Northland under such conditions are the Mississippi River downstream of Grand Rapids, the Bad River in Wisconsin and the Floodwood River and lower St. Louis River west of Duluth, but North Shore streams, which will carry a huge snowmelt in coming days, could be at risk.