Blizzard warnings issued as snow looms for northern Plains

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Blizzard warnings issued as snow looms for northern Plains

Portions of northern Plains are bracing for the third snow and wind-maker in the span of just about 10 days.. File photo by Gary C. Caskey/UPI | License Photo

After a historic blizzard earlier this month and another snowstorm less than a week later, portions of northern Plains are bracing for the third snow and wind-maker in the span of just about 10 days.

There will be some subtle differences this time, as the heaviest snow may fall slightly farther north and west than its predecessors. That said, some areas will have had significant snow from all three systems by the time the snowstorm comes to an end on Sunday.

“The worst of this storm seems to be centered a bit farther to the west in the United States compared to the other two storms, as well as a bit farther north in Canada,” said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

Blizzard warnings issued as snow looms for northern Plains

Ahead of the incoming blizzard, numerous blizzard warnings were already in effect. These span from eastern Montana to western North Dakota and southward into northeastern Wyoming and northwestern South Dakota. Miles City, Montana Williston, North Dakota Gillette, Wyoming and Buffalo, South Dakota, are just some locations under a blizzard warning.

In surrounding areas where the combination of wind and snow will not be quite as extreme, winter weather advisories and winter storm warnings have been issued. Even in those locations, adverse winter weather is on the way.

Blizzard warnings issued as snow looms for northern Plains

Much of eastern Montana and North Dakota were affected by the first snowstorm this month, but the second one was largely restricted to North Dakota. This one will cover more real estate in the eastern Rockies and northern Plains than either of the first two.

Sosnowski noted that the atmosphere appears to be “stuck in repeat mode” with storms cycling through the middle of the nation every few days with snow on their northwestern side and severe weather to the south and east. With the upcoming event, some areas could actually see both.

Portions of far northeastern Wyoming and western South Dakota could face a severe weather threat on Friday. Colder air will then move as the low pressure goes by, and strong winds and heavy snow will replace the thunderstorms by Friday night and Saturday.

Blizzard warnings issued as snow looms for northern Plains

Once the snow takes over, travel will become extremely difficult and dangerous and officials may be forced to close some stretches of highway.

“Motorists with travel plans through these areas should be prepared for major delays and road closures. Interstate 94 could be affected, as well as U.S. routes 2, 12 and 85, and Canada highways 1 and 16,” said Sosnowski.

Not only is snow likely to total over a foot in some locations, but it will also pile up very quickly. Heavy snow rates of up to 2 inches per hour can impact eastern Montana and western North Dakota on Saturday and Saturday night as the storm rapidly strengthens.

The combination of wind, snow and cold can again threaten newborn livestock. Calving season is underway, and significant snow can pose a threat to the lives of young cattle if they become buried.

Blizzard warnings issued as snow looms for northern Plains

Some parts of the region, especially eastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming, are in the throes of extreme drought. Therefore, despite the substantial snow on the way, the drought will be alleviated at least somewhat once the snow melts.

In the weeks ahead, AccuWeather’s team of long-range meteorologists will be actively monitoring for any significant warmups or heavy rain events that could cause the snowpack to melt at too quick a pace for the ground to keep up with absorption, which would raise concerns of river flooding.

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