WILLMAR -- The first winter storm of the season is expected in Minnesota today. Travel could become difficult by this evening for New Year's Eve revelers.
Rain and snow will begin this afternoon in the Willmar area, but west central Minnesota is expected to escape the heaviest snow. Strong winds, however, will develop this evening and cause blowing and drifting of any new snow, making travel difficult.
The Willmar area is in a winter weather advisory issued by the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, and a winter storm warning is in effect for areas farther east, including the metro area and Mankato. Snowfall of 3 to 4 inches is possible in the warning area, while 1 to 3 inches is forecast in Willmar and the rest of the advisory area.
The Weather Service says a mix of rain and snow is expected to develop over west central and southwest Minnesota late this afternoon and then change rapidly to snow from west to east during the early evening hours. The heaviest snow is expected to fall over portions of east central and south central Minnesota into a small part west central Wisconsin.
Very strong north to northwest winds of 25 to 35 mph will develop this evening. The Weather Service says this combination of accumulating snow, strong winds, and falling temperatures will make travel difficult on area roadways, particularly during the late evening into the overnight hours. If traveling tonight, be cognizant of the weather conditions and be prepared for difficult travel.
Windy conditions will continue through Sunday night, and blowing snow is expected to continue Sunday.