Powerful April blizzard to unfold across the northern Plains this week
Following a major storm that dropped heavy snow across the north-central U.S. to end last week, a stronger one will move in this week, and AccuWeather forecasters warn that heavy snow and strong winds could shut down highways.
Another strong storm will arrive early in the coming week and turn into a full-fledged blizzard on Tuesday and Wednesday.
Another blockbuster storm that will unload heavy snow and stir up strong winds is likely to evolve into a full-fledged blizzard and significantly impact travel this week across a large portion of the northern Plains, according to AccuWeather forecasters.
Numerous wintry storms have plagued the north-central United States over the past several weeks and months, and this week's blizzard is expected to be even stronger than the latest snowstorm to impact the region, which also unleashed a swarm of tornadoes and severe weather.
"This next storm will be a classic spring blizzard," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Joe Lundberg.
After bringing some snow and lower-elevation rain to the Pacific Northwest this weekend, the storm will gather energy as it crosses the Rockies on Monday. By Tuesday, the storm's center will emerge over the central Plains, and heavy snow will begin to break out across the northern Plains, accompanied by strong winds.
"A large temperature contrast between Arctic air coming in from the north and warm air from the south will feed the storm and cause it to deepen rapidly and generate powerful winds on Tuesday," said Lundberg. "Where that interacts with the heavy snow to the northwest of the storm's track, it will result in extremely poor visibility for hours on end due to blowing snow."
The worst conditions from the storm will take place from late Tuesday through early Wednesday from eastern Wyoming and northern Nebraska into the Dakotas and northwestern Minnesota. This is when a bonafide blizzard will unfold.
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.
"Wind gusts will be at least 50 to 60 mph, and roads and highways will likely be shut down for a time," Lundberg said.
In many areas, the snow that falls from the storm will be very hard to measure accurately due to the strong winds, but overall totals are forecast to exceed a foot in the heart of the blizzard area. Drifts will approach several feet in height due to blowing winds.
The drifting snow and low visibility from the strong winds can make travel nearly impossible for a time, including around many cities. Some locations that will be impacted include Aberdeen and Rapid City, South Dakota; Bismarck, Fargo and Grand Forks, North Dakota; and International Falls, Minnesota.
Residents planning to travel along interstates 29, 90 and 94 could face travel restrictions; it is possible that parts of those interstates could be closed altogether as the blizzard ramps up.
For residents and businesses, the strong winds could also knock out electricity, and restoration could take days as road conditions for power crews will only slowly improve later this week after the storm exits and near-record cold sets in for a time.
Lighter snow amounts of about a few inches will occur near the edges of the storm. These totals will be likely as far north and west as Montana, and to the south and east in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area, northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. AccuWeather meteorologists say some mixing of ice or rain will also be possible on the storm’s southern and eastern edges. Part of this region got slammed with heavy, wet snow and power outages last week.
The storm is also expected to trigger another outbreak of severe thunderstorms and tornadoes farther south across the Mississippi Valley and lower Midwest on Tuesday and Tuesday night, also just days after storms unleashed destructive tornadoes from Iowa and Wisconsin to Arkansas.
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