Blizzard warnings: Wind driven ‘ground blizzard’ rages

POTENTIALLY DAMAGING WINDS MAY CAUSE LOCALIZED POWER OUTAGES THURSDAY. THIS WILL BE A LIFE THREATENING BLIZZARD…TRAVEL ON THURSDAY WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE AT TIMES. MAKE PLANS TO POSTPONE OR DELAY ANY TRAVEL ON THURSDAY.

That’s apocalyptic wording from the National Weather Service office in Grand Forks, N.D., on Thursday’s blizzard. You don’t hear that often even in the Upper Midwest, but this one looks like the real deal folks.

643 wx2

Some early storm reports from Grand Forks NWS:

PUBLIC INFORMATION STATEMENT
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GRAND FORKS ND
337 AM CST THU JAN 16 2014

…NO TRAVEL ADVISED ON I 29 AND I 94 IN NORTH DAKOTA…

…SEVERAL ROADS CLOSED IN MINNESOTA…

THE NDDOT HAS ISSUED A NO TRAVEL ADVISORY FOR I 29 FROM THE CANADIAN BORDER TO THE SOUTH DAKOTA BORDER…AND FOR I 94 FROM FARGO TO JAMESTOWN DUE TO ZERO VISIBILITY.

IN MINNESOTA…THE MN DOT HAS CLOSED US HIGHWAY 2 FROM EAST GRAND FORKS TO CROOKSTON…HIGHWAY 2 FROM CROOKSTON TO ERSKINE AND HIGHWAY 200 FROM ND STATE LINE AND US HIGHWAY 75 NEAR HALSTAD.

ZERO VISIBILITY IS OCCURRING WITH WINDS GUSTING TO 60 MPH AT TIMES.

  • Kennedy [Kittson Co, MN] FIRE DEPT/RESCUE reports BLIZZARD at 4:44 AM CST — SEVERE BLIZZARD CONDITIONS AND PEOPLE WERE PULLED FROM DITCH
  • Hillsboro [Traill Co, ND] TRAINED SPOTTER reports BLIZZARD at 6:09 AM CST — EAST/WEST ROADS NEARLY IMPASSABLE AND ZERO VISIBILITY

Blizzard warnings are flying through today for a big chunk of the Upper Midwest. The warnings include the Red River Valley, the eastern Dakotas and northwest Minnesota.

Grand Forks NWS

And all of southwest and south central Minnesota.

Twin Cities NWS

Here’s the full warning text from Grand Forks.

318 PM CST WED JAN 15 2014

…BLIZZARD WARNING REMAINS IN EFFECT FROM MIDNIGHT TONIGHT TO 6 PM CST THURSDAY…

* TIMING…BLIZZARD CONDITIONS TO START JUST AFTER MIDNIGHT IN THE NORTHERN RED RIVER VALLEY AND PERSIST THROUGH THURSDAY AFTERNOON.

* WINDS/VISIBILITY…NORTH WINDS WILL INCREASE TO 40 TO 50 MPH WITH GUSTS TO 65 MPH POSSIBLE LATE TONIGHT THROUGH THURSDAY. VISIBILITIES WILL BE ZERO AT TIMES.

* SNOW ACCUMULATIONS…NEW SNOWFALL OF AROUND AN INCH.

* OTHER IMPACTS…POTENTIALLY DAMAGING WINDS MAY CAUSE LOCALIZED POWER OUTAGES THURSDAY. THIS WILL BE A LIFE THREATENING BLIZZARD…TRAVEL ON THURSDAY WILL BE IMPOSSIBLE AT TIMES. MAKE PLANS TO POSTPONE OR DELAY ANY TRAVEL ON THURSDAY.

Wind machine

An intense low pressure system is spawning another arctic front Thursday. The tightly packed pressure gradient means winds cranking from 30 to 50 mph Thursday, with some gusts to as high as 65 mph in the Red River Valley.

NOAA

No getting around it, this one looks nasty folks. Winds gusts to 68 mph have been clocked at Great Slave Lake way up in Canada’s Northwest Territories.

That intense arctic front and pressure gradient plunges south Thursday over fresh powdery snow cover. It’s what we used to call a full blown “ground blizzard“– winds of 50 to 60 mph picking up snow on the ground and getting it airborne.

Image: NOAA via weatherbug.com
NOAA, via weatherbug.com

Some of the snow in these intense blizzards can reach hundreds of feet into the air. Thursday snow that was on the ground in the Red River Valley may actually be lifted airborne and “advected” (transported horizontally) and deposited more than a hundred miles away in the Minnesota River Valley! (Do they have GPS trackers for individual snowflakes?)

Here’s the strong language from the Twin Cities National Weather Service forecast discussion.

IN FACT WOULD NOT BE SURPRISED TO SEE A 60MPH WIND GUST WITH THIS SYSTEM. THE LONG DURATION OF THESE WINDS WILL ALSO CONTRIBUTE TO BLIZZARD CONDITIONS…AND IT WILL BE INTERESTING TO SEE I SNOW GETS ADVECTED FROM THE RED RIVER VALLEY DOWN TO THE MINNESOTA RIVER VALLEY.

Bottom line: Thursday’s blizzard will rival the intense, deadly blizzards of the 1970′s and early 80′s in the Red River Valley. No travel is advised in blizzard areas Thursday. Road and school closures will be widespread. Ground and air travel will be seriously impacted, or brought to a standstill Thursday.In addition to blowing snow, temps and wind chills will plummet well below zero Thursday night.

Mild before wild

One deceptive feature with this system is a leading warm front that actually boosting temps before the bitter arctic front slams south. Temps actually rise overnight and early Thursday, before crashing again later Thursday. In the metro, temps will actually rise overnight into the 30s before crashing by midday Thursday.

Weatherspark

January thaw, part two

Arctic air returns Thursday night and Friday. Then a Friday night clipper will deliver our next round of snow.

After our next arctic plunge, milder Pacific breezes blow again by Sunday. Guidance suggest upper 30s, but  I will not be shocked to see our second 40 degree plus Sunday in the metro and Southern Minnesota.

Weatherspark

Backing off on polar vortex intensity?

Your desperate pleas for clemency on my Twitter feed regarding a second polar vortex invasion may have been heard.

As I said in may last post, I’m not buying fully into the notion of another polar vortex as string as what we saw last week. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Global Forecast System is notorious for cranking up bitter arctic outbreaks 10 days to two weeks out, then backing off as they approach. It would be nice if NOAA could fix that as they upgrade the GFS model.

Thankfully for many, the latest GFS runs have pushed the cold back in time — and reduced the intensity of the bottom. Here’s the latest 16-day GFS output.

NOAA via IPS Meteostar

Let’s see what the next few runs bring as we get closer to next weekend.

Stay tuned!