Surprise! Christmas will be white
A late, heavy snowfall blanketed southeast Minnesota Wednesday night, complicating some holiday travel plans but delighting those hoping for a white Christmas.
There is a silver lining to the white-Christmas storm for those who were hoping for clear roads: The price of gas is at a six-year low.
Rochester had reported 1.5 to 1.7 inches of snow as of 10 p.m. Wednesday, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration . The heaviest snow in the region fell in Dover, at 2.5 inches.
Dodge Center, Fillmore, Le Roy, Lewiston and Plainview each recorded two or more inches of snowfall by Wednesday evening.
Light snow is expected to continue this afternoon and evening in portions of northeast Iowa and southwest Wisconsin. More snowfall in southeast Minnesota is possible Friday night and into Saturday, a NOAA forecast said.
The white Christmas was unexpected this year, as weather has been unseasonably warm.
Rochester experiences a "white Christmas" about 77 percent of the time — generally considered an inch of snow on the ground or an inch falling on Christmas Day, according to NOAA. The last non-white Christmas was in 2011.
With or without snow, holiday travelers are projected to continue a record-breaking season for roadway travel. Lower gas prices and a growing economy have led Americans to drive 2.63 trillion miles through October of this year, an increase over 2014, according to the Federal Highway Administration.
At an average of $1.87 per gallon for regular gas in Minnesota, and Rochester prices at about $1.80 per gallon, holiday traveling is expected to be lighter on the wallet than usual, according to AAA.
The national average hit $1.99 on Dec. 21, snapping an 81-month span of higher-than $2 per gallon national average, an AAA news release said. Lower gas prices are due in part to the price and availability of oil.
"Drivers across the country are celebrating the historic return of cheaper gas prices," said Marshall Doney, AAA's President and CEO, in the release. "The lowest gas prices in nearly seven years are a holiday gift that few consumers could have imagined when gasoline was $4 a gallon."
Cheap gas and warmer weather may lead to more travelers.
AAA, which has been collecting data about travel and fuel prices for more than 20 years, estimated about 91 million people in the U.S. plan to travel 50 or more miles for the holidays.