ST. PAUL — Blizzard conditions and icy temperatures bore down on much of Minnesota Wednesday, Dec. 23.
The National Weather Service Wednesday afternoon extended a blizzard warning that applied to nearly every part of Minnesota, save for the north and northeast. More snow is expected to fall in the north and east.
The warning ends early Thursday, Dec. 24.
The Twin Cities metro area alone could be hit with up to a foot of snow, as could Duluth and neighboring communities in northeast Minnesota. Travel became hazardous into the afternoon as falling snow and fast-blowing winds hindered visibility.
Strong northwest winds of between 35 and 45 miles per hour were expected Wednesday, and gusts of up to 60 miles per hour were possible, according to the National Weather Service. Overnight temperature drops could create icy road conditions, further complication travel.
The effects of the winter storm were evident even early in the day. In Duluth, organizers of one light display cancelled Wednesday evening's events before nightfall because of weather concerns.
"We ask for people to stay home and be safe tonight," Organizer Nathan Bentley said.
Parts of Minnesota State Highway 23 and U.S. Route 59 in Minnesota were closed due to the weather by the late afternoon. Minnesota Department of Transportation travel advisories were in effect for parts of other state and U.S. Highways.
Weather concerns were substantial enough for the Minnesota Department of Health on Wednesday afternoon to close community COVID-19 testing centers in the state earlier than usual. Minnesota-bound shipments of the vaccine for the disease caused by the novel coronavirus may be arrive later than scheduled due to a combination of distributor delays and blizzard conditions.
"The impending weather we're experiencing right now is further complicating those shipment plans," State Department of Health Infectious Disease Director Kris Ehresmann told reporters Wednesday.
The National Weather Service predicted that snow would taper off into the night, with the blizzard warning set to expire early Thursday morning., Dec. 24. Temperatures were expected to dip below zero overnight.
Wind chill values of minus 20 to minus 35 degrees may be seen across Minnesota on Thursday, with the coldest temperatures likely in the northwest.