Blizzard conditions, dangerous travel expected as snowstorm targets north-central US
A powerful, cross-country storm will bring another round of snow and gusty winds to the northern Plains and Upper Midwest late this week and into this weekend, according to AccuWeather forecasters.
The combination of strong winds and heavy snow will reduce visibility for a time in many areas and may produce dangerous blizzard conditions from Friday into Saturday from the Dakotas to northern Michigan.
Winter weather advisories, winter storm watches, winter storm warnings and even blizzard warnings were in effect for a large portion of the north-central U.S. as of early Friday morning.
The same storm is expected to produce an outbreak of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes farther south, bring rain to several big cities in the Northeast and stir up winds that could knock out power, even in its wake, across the eastern Great Lakes and Ohio Valley.
For much of the region, it will be the continuation of a harsh, near-record snow season, even as the calendar turns to April. It also won't signal the end of wintry weather, as another, potentially even more powerful storm is slated to impact the area next week. Forecasters say next week's storm could bring additional heavy snow and blizzard conditions.
Snowflakes were flying into Thursday evening from parts of North Dakota east through northern Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, as the storm gathered steam over the Plains. This was the first of two waves of snow in this corridor, where many will see a changeover to ice and then rain into Friday.
A second, heavier round of snow will unfold beginning Friday in the Dakotas then expand east again through Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and northern Michigan on Friday night into Saturday morning as colder air moves in. It is with this round that strong winds will begin to blow around the snow, reducing visibility and threatening all types of travel.
"There is going to be blowing and drifting snow, along with dangerous travel conditions, during the second half of the snowstorm," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski. "These conditions will even linger for a time shortly after the storm exits, due to low temperatures and strong winds."
When all is said and done, a large area of the northern Plains and Upper Midwest will measure at least a few inches of snow. Smaller zones, mainly in South Dakota and western Minnesota, and from northern Wisconsin into Michigan's Upper Peninsula will tally at least 6 inches. The highest amounts are expected to occur in the Upper Peninsula, where amounts over a foot will be common, and an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 24 inches is forecast.
While the heaviest snow totals and risk for blizzard conditions will occur in a fairly narrow corridor, the storm will impact some large population centers and well-traveled interstate highways. The cities where travel can be difficult for a time include Aberdeen, South Dakota; the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul; Eau Claire and Rhinelander, Wisconsin; and Marquette, Michigan. Some highways that will be impacted include interstates 29, 35, 39, 75, 90 and 94.
For an official blizzard to be declared, winds must be sustained or gusting to 35 mph, and the visibility must be one-quarter of a mile or less for three consecutive hours, according to the National Weather Service.
The weekend before Easter and Passover is a traditionally busy one for both indoor and outdoor activities. Outdoor Easter egg hunts on Saturday may have to be put on hold or moved indoors, due to the fresh snow and expected chilly and windy conditions in the wake of the storm.
The same storms that have been pounding California all winter and early this spring have also been tracking through the Upper Midwest. The result has been one of the 10 snowiest seasons on record for some cities in the region.
"At 81.3 inches, the winter of 2022-23 is currently the eighth snowiest on record in Minneapolis," said Sosnowski. "In order to move into the top five snowiest winters, the seasonal total there will need to reach 84.9 inches to tie the winter of 1916-17."
In Rhinelander, the seasonal snowfall total currently sits at 98 inches. That is second only to the winter of 1938-39 when 106 inches of snow was measured there.
It appears Minneapolis will end up moving into the top five after this storm, while Rhinelander may come up just shy of the all-time record.
The very active storm track that has led to more snowstorms than usual in the Upper Midwest this season is not coming to an end yet. Snow often accumulates in this part of the country well into April and even May, and AccuWeather meteorologists are tracking another storm that could deliver another dose of heavy snow and strong winds next week.
"The next storm could end up being even stronger than the one this week," said Sosnowski. "It is also expected to track farther north and west, which could limit heavy snow and possible blizzard conditions to the Dakotas and northern Minnesota."
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