Meteorologist Carl Jones with the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, warns area residents that "this might be a doozy," as two rounds of winter storms are expected to pound eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota. During a weather webinar held at 1 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 9, Jones described the event as one of long duration.
"We expect it to be significant and bring crippling impacts," said Jones, pointing
The National Weather Service issued a winter storm warning, which will be in effect from 1 p.m. Thursday through 7 a.m. Friday. This first round of heavy snow is expected to drop 4 to 8 inches of snow. In the Devils Lake region, 7 to 12 inches of snow is forecasted.
"This is going to be quite a storm for so early in the season, with big snowfall amounts, strong winds and a 'flash freeze,' in which temperatures quickly drop below 32° as the snow commences," said Stu Ostro, a senior meteorologist at The Weather Channel. "The first flakes are already falling today in parts of Montana, and snow and cold will sweep south across the Rockies and east across the Plains in the coming days."
Jones warned of multiple forms of precipitation with as much as 2 to 3 inches of rain falling beginning Wednesday. As the rain transitions into snow Thursday afternoon in the Grand Forks area, light freezing rain may enter into the mix.
A winter storm watch, in effect for Friday through Saturday afternoon, has been issued for the second round of snow, which could bring an additional 6 or more inches of snow to the Red River Valley.
"The higher winds will evolve late Friday into Saturday," said Jones of wind gusts that could reach as high as 50 mph.
"These types of winds will combine with the heavy snow rates ... and result in crippling to impossible travel and significant drifting of snow," said Jones, who warned of the likelihood of power outages as tree branches, still with leaves, may become damaged and knock down power lines.
The weather service expects the storm to be similar to an Oct. 10 snow storm last year. Grand Forks saw 5.2 inches of snow, while the Air Force base had 19.2 inches. This year’s first snowstorm, however, is expected to hit a larger area and impact more people.
Hoppes said the snow will be heavy and wet. Temperatures aren’t expected to drop low enough to freeze roads, but Hoppes warned that roads will be slushy and whiteout conditions are possible.
Grand Forks is also in a flood warning and the Red River, which has been closed to the public, is predicted to reach 33.5 feet Wednesday, recede slightly and crest Monday at 34.8 feet. Last month was the rainiest September in Grand Forks history, according to the weather service. Many basements flooded throughout town and farmers have struggled to harvest their crops in flooded or muddy fields.
National Weather Service meteorologist John Hoppes said the wet fall could exacerbate flooding in the spring, though predictions for the overall month of October place precipitation just slightly above the normal.
October is still forecasted to come in slightly warmer than normal for average temperatures, despite the cold, snowy start to the month, according to Hoppes.
Temperatures are predicted to remain in the 30s early next week, meaning the snow could stick around through a portion of the week.
Kimberly Wynn, managing editor of the Herald, contributed to this article.