2 P.M. UPDATE
The entire Twin Cities metro area has been added to the blizzard warning until 6 a.m. Thursday, though the weather service says conditions will improve after 9 p.m. when the heaviest snow exits the area. Here's the updated blizzard warning language:
"Snow will continue into this evening area wide, then taper off after midnight. Total snow accumulations of 7 to as much as 11 inches are expected from Mankato, through Twin Cities, and Chisago City in Minnesota. 3 to 6 inches of snow is expected across western Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.
"Strong northwest winds of 35 to 40 mph with gusts to 60 mph have developed over western Minnesota and will spread east across the rest of Minnesota this afternoon. Considerable blowing and drifting snow and whiteout conditions are occurring. Travel will become very dangerous, if not impossible today and tonight. Wind chills dropping to 25 below to 40 below zero will be especially dangerous to those that may become stranded."
Welcome to what is going to be a wild day of weather, where morning temperatures in the 40s are going to drop like a rock throughout the day and be accompanied by a major snowstorm that is poised to deliver very heavy snow and ferocious winds that will make travel nearly impossible over much of Minnesota.
Blizzard and winter storm warnings are in effect, with conditions rapidly deteriorating already this morning in western Minnesota. Conditions will worsen from west to east as the day progresses, with precipitation reaching the Twin Cities by or before 12 p.m.
"Light rain will change to snow by this afternoon. Snow rates of 1 to 2"/hr will be possible into this evening. High winds are expected to ramp up with gusts up to 60 mph. Blizzard conditions & blowing snow likely," the weather service says.
The latest snowfall projection map from the National Weather Service shows the bullseye right over the the west/northwest metro and up the Interstate 35 corridor into the Duluth area and northwest Wisconsin, where 6-12 inches could fall.
As the weather service notes in the forecast discussion, it's possible that locations that fall under the heaviest band of snow could get more than the graphic above is forecasting, and that's exactly what most of the computer models are suggesting will happen.
The American model is throwing a whopping 12-20 inches of snow in the metro and east-central Minnesota, while the latest short-term HRRR model tosses out more than a foot.
Here's the HRRR simulated radar.
A flash freeze scenario is expected to unfold as rain and mixed precipitation quickly changes to snow by early afternoon. Combine the wet roads with plummeting temperatures and a flash freeze is likely, thus creating "extremely dangerous" travel conditions this afternoon, according to the weather service.
The Winter Storm Severity Index now shows areas just west of the metro expected to meet the extreme criteria, which means big-time blowing snow problems can be expected, possibly causing damage to trees, power poles and roofs. .
"High winds are expected to develop with wind gusts up to 60 mph this afternoon. Any snow that falls will be blown around and impact travel. Temperatures will also plummet into the single digits and teens by 5 PM with wind chills dropping below zero," says the NWS.
The snowstorm is hitting on what is typically a busy travel day ahead of Christmas, and there are already reports of flight delays and cancellations at MSP Airport. No travel advisories are also being issued where blizzard conditions are occurring Wednesday morning in northwest Minnesota.