Heavy snow over north-central US to precede cold blast, lake-effect farther east

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A multifaceted storm will pivot through the central United States from Thursday to Friday and produce travel-disrupting heavy snow over the northern tier and dangerous severe thunderstorms over parts of the southern Plains and lower Mississippi Valley, AccuWeather meteorologists say.

“The same storm responsible for the latest atmospheric river to swamp California will push inland over the West and reorganize over the Plains on Thursday,” AccuWeather Senior Broadcast Meteorologist Kristina Shalhoup said.

Storm to add to wintry landscape over north-central US

Patchy snow associated with the leading edge of moisture from the storm along the Pacific coast will develop over portions of the northern and central Rockies and adjacent High Plains into early Thursday morning. As a new center of low pressure develops over Kansas Thursday, steadier snow will break out farther to the east over Nebraska, the Dakotas, northwestern Iowa and Minnesota Thursday.

“As the storm strengthens and tracks northeastward, the heaviest and steadiest snow from the storm will begin near Minneapolis during Thursday afternoon and extend into the northern parts of Wisconsin and Michigan from Thursday night to Friday,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Matt Benz said. In this zone, a general 6-12 inches of snow is forecast with locally higher amounts possible around the shores of Lake Superior.

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As winds increase with the strengthening storm, extensive blowing and drifting snow will occur from parts of Minnesota to northern Michigan. Local blizzard conditions are possible, especially to the northeast of Minneapolis.

The storm will add to the heavy amounts of snow that have already fallen in portions of the northern Plains and the Upper Midwest.

Benz, a native of the region, said that many of the hardiest residents in the area have “had enough of the snow this winter.” In the wake of the storm from this past weekend, gusty winds produced snowdrifts up to several feet high across portions of Minnesota.

Minneapolis has already received 80.3 inches of snow this winter, which is nearly double its historical average of 43.8 inches of snow through March 13.

“This storm will push Minneapolis-St. Paul up higher on the top-10 snowiest winter list,” Benz said. The winter of 2022-23 is currently the eighth-snowiest on record for the Twin Cities.

From 3 to perhaps 6 inches of snow is forecast for the Minnesota metro area, which could boost this winter’s snowfall higher up on the top-ten list. During the World War I-era winter of 1916-17, which is fifth on the all-time list, 84.9 inches of snow fell. Since snow is likely to continue to fall periodically during the latter part of March and well into April this year, the winter’s snowfall is likely to move up even higher on the list after the storm into Friday. The all-time snowiest winter was during the 1983-84 season when 98.6 inches of snow fell on the Twin Cities.

Part of the Miller Hill Mall roof in Duluth, Minnesota, collapsed under the weight of snow on Tuesday morning. Data suggests that an average of 37 inches of snow is on the ground in the region, but deeper snow is possible in some areas, including on top of some buildings, due to prior drifting.

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A large portion of the north-central U.S. has deep snow on the ground ranging from 1 to 4 feet in parts of the Dakotas, Minnesota, central and northern Wisconsin and northern Michigan. The snow contains a significant amount of water locked up within it, and that could raise the risk of flooding when the spring thaw begins.

On the storm’s warmer southern side, thunderstorms will bring the potential for severe weather and localized flooding problems in the short term.

Expansion of cold air to trigger lake-effect snow

In the wake of the snowstorm for the Upper Midwest, much colder air will sweep across a large part of the nation this weekend to early next week.

Over much of the nation, temperatures will end up from 5 to 15 degrees below the historical average for the middle of March.

For example, in Chicago, the temperatures may be no higher than the freezing mark on Saturday, where the historical average high for the date is in the upper 40s. In New York City, temperatures on Sunday may struggle to get much past the 40-degree mark. The average high for Sunday is near 50. Factoring in wind and other conditions, AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures may be 10-15 degrees lower than the actual temperature at times.

As the colder air sweeps in on blustery winds, bands of lake-effect snow will develop and extend across portions of Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, northern West Virginia and western Maryland starting this weekend.

Usually, by March, lake-effect snow is minimal as a large percentage of the Great Lakes are strewn with ice. However, due to a mild winter, there was less than 10% ice cover over the Great Lakes, according to the Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory. By mid-March, the historical average for ice cover throughout the lakes is about 35%.

The mainly ice-free waters open the door for significant lake-effect snow events when blasts of Arctic air sweep through.

The waves of cold air will cause the snow bands to shift from one day to the next, and that is likely to pose changing weather conditions for motorists venturing along stretches of interstates 79, 80, 81, 86, 90, 99 and 196.

The visibility may vary from unrestricted to under 1/4 mile from snow band to snow band, and corresponding road conditions will fluctuate from dry to slushy and even snow-covered in a matter of seconds when traveling along at highway speeds.

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