A.L. area braces for high windsPublished 9:34am Thursday, December 20, 2012
Blizzard conditions were expected to continue in the Albert Lea area today as a snowstorm crosses Iowa and heads into Wisconsin and Michigan.
The counties of Freeborn, Faribault, Martin, Mower, Fillmore, Houston, Olmsted and Winona remained in a National Weather Service-issued blizzard warning until 6 p.m. today.
As of 6 a.m., Albert Lea had received 4 1/2 in this storm. Albert Lea already had received 3 inches from a snowstorm that moved through Tuesday.
Snowfall was expected to taper off this morning, and winds were expected to increase in the afternoon. The Albert Lea forecast calls for a north northwest wind 25 to 35 mph, with gusts as high as 47 mph.
“The combination of freshly fallen snow and such strong winds will bring considerable blowing and drifting snow to open area, including along the Interstate 35 and 90 corridors of far southern Minnesota.”
Travel today was not recommended.
Several school districts canceled classes.
Albert Lea Area Schools were closed today. St. Theodore Catholic School and Hollandale Christian School were also closed. United Preschool announced it closed.
New Richland-Hartland-Ellendale-Geneva announced a two-hour delay, and school officials said they will watch the weather closely.
Alden-Conger, Glenville-Emmons, United South Central, Lake Mills, Northwood-Kensett public schools closed.
Other area schools that closed were Austin public and non-public, Blue Earth Area, Blooming Prairie, Clear Lake, Mason City, North Iowa Area Community College, Owatonna, Rochester public and non-public, Winona and St. Ansgar, among others.
Calmer weather is forecast for the weekend, with a slight chance of snow on Christmas Day.
Across the Midwest
DES MOINES — The Midwest’s first major snowstorm of the season was sweeping across several states early today, shuttering schools, creating treacherous roadways and threatening to slow down one of the nation’s busiest airports ahead of the holiday weekend.
Forecasters warned that heavy snowfall coupled with strong winds would create blizzard conditions for morning commuters from Kansas to Wisconsin.
Nebraska’s largest school district canceled classes because of heavy overnight snow, as did many districts across Iowa, where drivers were being told to stay off the roads starting Wednesday evening because of whiteout conditions.
But Iowa native Laurie Harry said the weather likely wouldn’t stop her from starting up her car this morning.
“If I need to get into work, I’ll be here,” said Harry, a manager at a Casey’s General Store in the western Iowa town of Atlantic. “We’ve had snow before. Iowans know what to expect. We’re used to it.”
The heaviest snow is expected across a swath extending from northwest Missouri into Milwaukee, Chicago and Michigan, with predictions of as much as a foot of snow in some areas, according to the National Weather Service. Before the storm, several cities in the Midwest had broken records for the number of consecutive days without measurable snow.
Light snow, strong winds and low clouds could make visibility poor and cause delays at Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, the nation’s second-busiest airport, according to the National Weather Service. The weather has already prompted Delta and United Airlines to allow many affected travelers to change schedules without incurring fees.
By Wednesday night, snow had blanketed parts of Iowa and Nebraska as the storm moved out of eastern Colorado and across parts of Kansas. Several states were reporting numerous traffic accidents, including one fatality in Nebraska.
“There are a few truckers stranded here. And we have some semis that have rolled over and we have some that have jackknifed,” said Ashley Brozek, a clerk at the Eagle Travel Center in the western Kansas town of Tribune. “We also have a UPS driver that is stranded and a local family has let him in for the night.”
In Madrid, about 30 miles north of Des Moines, auto repair shop owner Steve Simmons said he had a busy Wednesday morning with customers looking for snow tires ahead of the storm.
“Everybody seems to wait to the last minute for this kind of thing,” he said. And he was also expecting a busy Thursday snowplowing several churches and private businesses.
“The bad weather usually benefits me greatly,” he said.
Meteorologist Kris Sanders explained “it’s a pretty strong system that is coming out of the Rockies,” where the storm dumped a foot of snow — a gift for ski resorts in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah ahead of the busy holiday week — before moving east.
The moisture was being welcomed by farmers in the drought-parched region, but Sanders said the storm wouldn’t make much of a dent. In Kansas, for example, some areas are more than 12 inches below normal precipitation for the year.
“It’s not going to have a big effect, maybe only a half-inch of liquid precipitation. It’s not helping us out much,” the meteorologist said.
Sanders said another storm similar to the current one could bring additional snow on Christmas or the day after.
Snow shoveling tips
Shoveling snow can be good exercise when performed correctly. Shoveling snow can also be harmful when people try to take on more than they can handle.
Here are some tips from physicians at Mayo Clinic Health System to keep in mind before you go outside to shovel:
• If you are inactive and have a history of heart trouble, talk to your doctor before you shovel. Stop if you feel tightness in your chest. Heart attacks increase significantly in the winter months, particularly while people are shoveling snow.
• Drink plenty of water. Dehydration is just as important in cold winter months as it is in the summer.
• Dress warmly. Dress in several layers so you can remove a layer as needed.
• Do not shovel while eating or smoking. Avoid caffeine or nicotine before you begin shoveling. This may place extra stress on the heart.
• Warm up your muscles in your arms and legs. Walk for a few minutes and stretch your arms and legs before shoveling. Warm muscles are less likely to be injured and work more efficiently. Also keep a cell phone handy just in case of emergency.
• Take it slow! Pace yourself and take breaks.
• Don’t pick up too much snow at once. Use a small shovel, or fill it only one-fourth to one-half if you use a large shovel. If necessary, just push the snow as you shovel. It is easier on your back. Keep the load of snow as close to you as possible.
• Protect your back. Bend from the knees, not your back. Lift with your legs bent, stand with your feet about hip width for balance and keep the shovel close to your body. Try not to twist. If you need to move the snow to one side move your feet to face the direction the snow will be going.
• Clear snow as soon as it stops falling. Freshly fallen snow is lighter than snow that has melted slightly.
• Most importantly — listen to your body! Stop if you feel very tired.