Slipping and sliding into the new year

Published 4:38 pm Thursday, December 30, 2010

Freezing rain, sleet, snow and flurries in the forecast may cause for interesting driving conditions on a weekend that’s already sometimes known for increased traffic problems.

Freeborn County is in a winter storm warning, issued by the National Weather Service, from noon today until 6 a.m. Saturday.

With an 80 percent chance of freezing rain and sleet today, and temperatures hovering just below the freezing point, drivers are being cautioned of slick road conditions. Sleet turning into snow tonight, with 1 to 4 inches of snowfall predicted across the region, will only make driving conditions even more hazardous. Despite being a holiday weekend local road crews will operate with safety first in mind.

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“Assuming the temperatures drop and it gets slippery, crews will be out,” said Albert Lea Public Works Director Steven Jahnke.

NWS predicts new ice accumulation of around 1/10 of an inch is possible. New sleet accumulation of less than half an inch is also possible.

Temperatures are expected to drop dramatically into the nighttime hours, with a low around 1 degree. Winds of up to 22 mph with gusts as high as 32 mph will make the outdoors feel frigid, with wind chill values between -10 and -20 degrees.

With warmer temperatures melting the snow earlier this week, and then rain on Thursday, Jahnke said there wasn’t much that city road crews could do to prepare streets for the next freeze.

“If we put salt and sand down and it’s raining, it would just wash away,” he said.

Even with sand and salt on streets, Jahnke cautioned drivers as surfaces could get very slippery if temperatures plummeted as expected.

“Drive slow and if you don’t need to go out, don’t,” he said.

On the radar for New Year’s Day are scattered flurries with mostly cloudy skies and a high near 9 degrees. Conditions are expected to remain breezy, with a west wind up to 28 mph and gusts as high as 39 mph.

Saturday night is expected to be mostly cloudy and breezy with a low around -2 degrees.

The sun is expected to finally show its face on Sunday, with a high near 11 degrees.