Blizzard warning issued for eastern North Dakota, western Minnesota in midst of peak holiday travel
Conditions will gradually deteriorate Thursday through Friday, according to the National Weather Service.
FARGO — Weather conditions will deteriorate starting the night of Thursday, Dec. 22, with winds gusting and blowing the light, fluffy snow blanketing the area, continuing through most of Friday.
The National Weather Service has issued a blizzard warning for the area starting at 9 p.m. Thursday and continuing until 6 p.m. Friday.
“We are expecting significant travel impacts,” especially Thursday and Friday, said Austin Perroux, a weather service meteorologist. “Most of the travel impacts are going to be tied to blowing and drifting snow,” including whiteout conditions in open country.
At times, visibility in some areas will be less than a quarter of a mile, he said. Conditions will gradually deteriorate Thursday through Friday. No new snow is predicted in the area.
Drifting snow and poor visibility could strand motorists. “Becoming stranded will lead to life-threatening conditions,” Perroux said. Dangerously cold wind chills between 35 below up to 50 below can quickly cause frostbite or exposure, he said.
Travelers should keep in mind that the blizzard conditions extend beyond eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota and will prevail in South Dakota and elsewhere in Minnesota toward the Twin Cities, Perroux said.
John Wheeler, WDAY StormTracker chief meteorologist, said conditions won’t qualify as a blizzard — but that won’t really matter, because conditions will be nasty, making travel in open country dangerous or impossible because of clogged roads.
The storm will not involve new snow but will produce “massive drifting,” he said.
Wheeler predicted the howling winds, dangerous wind chills and blowing snow will result in road closures and cancellations on Friday. Winds will be 20 to 30 mph, gusting up to 45 mph, he said.
Wind chills will be mostly in the 30s below zero, with “a spot or two in the area” reaching minus 50 degrees, Wheeler said. In the past several days, the area already has experienced wind chills in the minus-40 range.
A wind chill warning posted by the National Weather Service Thursday afternoon will remain in effect until noon on Saturday.
With 14 inches of snow on the ground, “The drifting will be phenomenal,” he said. “You’ll be able to see. You’ll be peering over the drifts.”
Except for some exposed areas on the outskirts, travel within Fargo-Moorhead will not be impaired Thursday night and Friday, Wheeler said. But travel from outlying areas, such as Casselton to Fargo, “That may be impossible.”
The poor travel conditions, blowing and drifting snow, already had been forecast earlier this week, Wheeler said. “It’s important for people to understand that nothing has changed in the forecast for the last few days,” he said.
The winds will gradually subside Friday night.
Conditions will improve on Saturday, Christmas Eve. “Not much wind at all on Sunday” — Christmas Day — “but I’m expecting some snow,” Wheeler said.
Although it’s too early to predict Sunday’s snowfall, he said, it will be a “measurable snow system Sunday, Sunday night.”
Weather conditions will continue to improve next week. “By midweek, it should be a nice week,” Wheeler said.