Blizzard underway

Blizzard! There’s a word that really gets your attention.  Technically, it means a severe winter storm with sustained winds or frequent gusts over 35 mph, with falling and/or blowing snow reducing the visibility to less than a quarter mile for at least three hours. There no longer is any temperature requirement; that was dropped back in the 1980s.

Here is the big picture from the National Weather Service as of about noon on Sunday.

Blizzard Warnings extend from North Dakota to Iowa. Credit:NWS

Blizzard conditions are now occurring in western Minnesota and will continue to spread eastward.  As of this time the Blizzard Warning comes right up close to the Twin Cities as it includes Wright, Carver and Scott Counties on the west side of the metro area.

The worst visibilities will be in the open areas, as usual, where the recent fluffy snow will have ample opportunity to blow and drift.  Western and southern Minnesota will experience sustained winds of 30 to 40 mph with gusts to near 60 mph into tonight before diminishing a bit. Whiteout conditions will be widespread.  Numerous roads are likely to become blocked or impassable due to lack of visibility. Take extra clothes and blankets if you must travel in those areas.

The forested areas of eastern Minnesota and the various cities will cut some of the wind, but I expect winds to gust to around 45 mph even right in the Twin Cities this afternoon and continue this evening.

The worst of today’s blizzard will be west and southwest of the metro area. Credit:NWS Chanhassen

MNDOT has a great website for checking on the roads around the state with links to surrounding states for more info.  Some roads are already indicated as closed due to whiteout conditions in the far northwest.

The blowing snow will mark the leading edge of an Arctic blast that will stay with us for a few days.  It’s that nasty polar vortex that has slipped in our direction from the northern ice cap again.  By early afternoon temperatures already have fallen below zero in northwestern Minnesota where visibilities have fallen to a quarter of a mile or less.

Windchill Warnings and Advisories that will go into effect later today or tonight will remain in effect until noon Tuesday.  Windchills are likely to be in the -40s to -50s over a very large area, with more wind in the south and colder air in the north.

Here’s how it looks for northeastern Minnesota.

Less wind and blowing snow are expected in northeastern Minnesota, but it will be very cold. Credit:NWS Duluth

Here are some forecast low temperatures (not windchills) for a few cities for Monday morning:

Twin Cities -18,  Rochester -16,  Redwood Falls -15,  St. Cloud -20,  Brainerd -25,  Duluth -25,  Grand Rapids -25,   Bemidji -28 and Worthington -14.

Winds in some open areas of southwestern Minnesota are likely to continue sustained at 25 to 35 mph with gusts to 50 mph well into tonight before diminishing to 20 to 30 mph later in the night.

The wind will continue to diminish Monday and Monday night.  With less wind to stir things up and the Arctic air right over us, Tuesday promises to be the coldest morning of the week.

Tuesday morning looks like the bottom of the polar plummet. Credit:NOAA

It seems like an excellent day for a hot mug of cocoa.