Windswept snowstorm coming to northern Plains

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Folks wanting a wintry look before Thanksgiving may get their wish. After a couple of shots of minor snow during the rest of this week, a major windswept snowstorm is set to unfold Friday night into Saturday night over the northern Plains.

A storm is likely to bring the first large area of accumulating snow of the season to some locations on the northern Plains that have avoided much of the white stuff thus far.

The early indications show that a band of moderate to heavy snow will begin to track from the mountains of Wyoming and Colorado, northeastward across South Dakota, southeastern North Dakota, northern Minnesota and into part of northern Ontario.

In addition to snow, wind will be a factor with the storm leading to low visibility, as well as blowing and drifting snow in some locations.

Cities in the path of the storm include Pierre and Huron, S.D., Fargo, N.D., Duluth, Minn., and Thunder Bay, Ontario. Highways likely to be impacted by the storm include I-25 in Wyoming and I-29, I-35, I-90 and I-94 over the northern Plains states. Snow could skirt the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area.

Given the early season and a wide range of road surface temperatures, road conditions will range from wet to slushy to snow-covered and icy.

Even though the storm will fall well short of some of the major blizzards of the past to affect the northern Plains, it will pack an early-season punch and may be quite impressive for a few hours.

The exact path of the storm forecast to swing from Colorado to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan will determine which areas get the heaviest snow in this swath. However, there is the potential for 3 or more inches of snow over a broad area. A narrow band of 6 to 12 inches of snow is possible as the storm continues to develop along the way.

The combination of 15- to 30-mph sustained winds with higher gusts and the snow will lead to several hours of poor visibility. In some areas, the snow will be dry enough and the air cold enough to cause blowing and drifting snow.

The storm will be preceded by a quick-hitting swath of snow across the Canadian Prairies.

The impending snowstorm is currently churning in the Gulf of Alaska. The storm will drop southward along the British Columbia coast through Thursday before tracking into the Northwest Thursday night, delivering Seattle its first snowflakes of the season.

The storm will re-group over the interior Northwest and northern Rockies Friday into Friday night, where it is also likely to produce locally heavy snow in parts of Utah, Idaho and Wyoming.

The next target of the re-strengthening storm will be the northern Plains spanning Friday night into Saturday night.

Since the storm is forecast to keep moving at a steady pace, accumulation over a foot on the northern Plains are not likely.

Cold Blast Follows the Storm

The air behind the storm is substantially cold. Temperatures in portions of Alaska dipped to 40 degrees below zero north of this storm Tuesday morning. Some of that air will drive southward into western Canada but will moderate upon nearing the United States.

Although not like dead-of-the-winter cold for the northern Plains, it will have shock value. It is likely to bring the lowest AccuWeather RealFeel® temperatures of the season so far this weekend for many areas, including Montana, the Dakotas and much of Minnesota.

Where there is snow on the ground, temperature may be no better than the 20s for daytime highs for a couple of days. Nighttime lows near zero to the single digits will be common, again in areas where there is snow on the ground.

Despite the cold shot coming this weekend into early next week, it does not appear that arctic cold will lock in for Thanksgiving. Temperatures are forecast to moderate during next week over the northern Plains.

Read more from AccuWeather.com


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Kari Parsons    
Los Angeles  |  November, 17, 2011 at 03:56 PM

Every storm of any kind should be a wake up call to citizens to better prepare themselves. There are many great resources on the web like www.1800prepare.com and many others to learn more about emergency kits, supplies and other options. It can't hurt to at least take a look around.


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