ST. PAUL — A winter storm is predicted to dump anywhere from 5 to 8 inches of snow on much of Minnesota on Friday, Jan. 17, making travel difficult and forcing residents to stay inside their homes.
Public safety officials Friday morning called on schools and workplaces to allow for early dismissals in light of the storm, which is expected to begin this afternoon and taper off later in the evening. Blowing snow and icy temperatures are expected to follow on Saturday.
"I gather at this point that everybody's understood that this might be a great 'Netflix and chill' weekend," state Deputy Fire Marshal Bob Reif joked at a Friday press conference.
The storm is likely to upend many plans for the weekend but won't rival the blizzard that blanketed parts of Minnesota and North Dakota with a foot of snow and more last December, said Dan Luna, head meteorologist of the National Weather Service Twin Cities office. He cautioned that snow could still accumulate as quickly as 1.5 inches per hour once it begins to fall in earnest, and that a select few parts of the state could see snowfall totals of around 10 inches.
Western Minnesota could be licked by wind gusts of up to 45 miles per hour on Saturday, Luna said, creating blizzard-like conditions and reducing visibility. The eastern half of the state will not fare much better, he said.
"It will be terrible day to drive," Luna said.
State Homeland Security and Emergency Management director Joe Kelly said the agency will be in contact with local, county and tribal public safety departments throughout the duration of the storm. He advised motorists to think twice before hitting the road and to pack emergency kits in case of an accident.
Stranded motorists should call 911 and remain in their vehicles until help arrives, Kelly said.
Those willing to travel during the storm should adhere to standard winter weather driving precautions, said Minnesota State Patrol Chief Matt Langer said, such as driving under the speed limit and allowing for more distance between vehicles.
"Our state troopers and other law enforcement are going to be out, and they are out, across the state of Minnesota, and they literally risk their life trying to help people that end up needing help in these conditions," he said.
Housebound Minnesotans will have to take safety precautions of their own, Reif said. Flammable possessions need to be moved several feet away from active fireplaces and wood-burning stoves, he said, and exhaust vents will need to be kept clear of snow to prevent carbon monoxide buildups.
Rental property owners in Minnesota are required by law to clear their tenants' exhaust vents, Reif said.
State Department of Public Safety spokesperson Bruce Gordon said the recent ice storm that struck Minnesota illustrates the danger of driving in poor conditions. More than 400 car accidents occurred statewide during the storm, he said, several of which were fatal.