A storm currently strengthening over the West will spread blizzard conditions over the northern Plains into the weekend.
A series of storms is consolidating over the interior West to end the week.
Cold air invading the storm on its northern flank was producing areas of blinding, heavy snow in portions of Montana Thursday.
While snow is likely to reach as far south as the Sierra Nevada in California, the heaviest snow and worst travel conditions will be on the northwest side of the storm reaching across Montana, North Dakota part of the southern Canada Prairies and into northwestern Ontario.
The storm is capable of bringing 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 centimeters) of snow with strong winds ranging in direction from the north, northeast and east.
Strong surface winds reaching between 20 and 40 mph are also expected with this storm at times, which will rotate counterclockwise around the center.
While the storm may fall short of an official blizzard (snow or blowing snow with winds of at least 35 mph and a visibility under one-quarter of a mile for three hours) over a broad area, the combination of wind and snow can make for very poor visibility and dangerous travel, including long stretches of I-15, I-90 and I-94.
Cities that stand to be impacted by the storm for a time include Sheridan, Wyo.; Glasgow and Billings, Mont.; Dickinson and Bismarck, N.D.; and Regina, Saskatchewan and Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
The storm is riding along a buckle in strong winds high in the atmosphere. These winds, known as the jet stream, will help to pump warm air northward into the East and cold air southward into the West.
The combination of the strong upper level winds and a surface cold front dangling south of the storm will aid in the formation of thunderstorms over the Plains. Some of the storms could become severe late Saturday into Sunday.
Snow will fall over Donner Pass along I-80 in California through Friday and can result in poor visibility and slippery travel for a time along that major cross country route.
While the West turns stormy and colder, the storm-weary Northeast will get a break from the storms and a spell of warmer weather. Expert Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski contributed to the content of this story.
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