FAIRMONT - Today may be the first official day of winter, but the season has already made its presence known.
Any hopes for another mild winter were blown away Thursday as Fairmont caught the edge of a blizzard that settled over Iowa and southern Wisconsin.
"The models for this storm were shifting a lot because we were right on the edge of the system," said meteorologist Mark Tarello of KEYC-TV in Mankato. "With every shift, we would see the forecast drastically change. If it had been headed right toward us, we wouldn't see it change as much. It wasn't until late Wednesday afternoon that it honed in on a track. I had Fairmont estimated at 2 to 4 inches of snow, and there was 3.5."
YOUR?TURN?— The chilly winds didn’t damper the spirits of Fairmont students getting their first snow day. Macy Anderson, left, face plants after going down the hillside at Fairmont Elementary School as Ryann Maidl prepares to go down the hill next.
Martin County was under a winter storm warning, but that was upgraded to a blizzard warning overnight, which was in effect until Thursday evening.
"Blizzard warnings don't have much to do with accumulation, it's what the wind does with it," Tarello said. "Just an inch or two, with high winds can cause poor visibility with blowing snow."
The worst of the system was to the south and east. Albert Lea received 5.5 inches of snow, and Interstate 35 was closed at the Minnesota/Iowa border. The Iowa Department of Transportation was advising no travel for most of the state.
"Iowa was the bull's-eye for the snowfall," Tarello said. "There was a 10- to 20-inch potential for snowfall."
The blizzard warning prompted the closing of schools in Fairmont and Blue Earth, but others were able to open with a two-hour late start.
"I think we were on the western fringe of it," said Martin County West Superintendent Allison Schmidt. "From what I understand, Jackson County didn't even have a late start."
Schmidt said the decision to go with a late start instead of closing stemmed from communication with other schools, her transportation director, and going out on the roads herself.
"I was out driving at about 4 a.m.," she said. "I didn't go on all the bus routes, but I was out on several gravel roads, from Trimont to Dunnell ... It's a combination of seeing the conditions, and speaking with the other districts, and the National Weather Service, and seeing the radar."
Winds were expected to taper off later Thursday evening, but no warm-up is expected anytime soon.
"We'll still be dealing with slick spots," Tarello said. "The snowpack we have now will keep it cold, so we're in the ice box for a while. It will be much better for travel this weekend, and we're probably guaranteed a white Christmas."