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Large, complex storm threatens freezing rain, ice, up to a foot of snow, winds

What the National Weather Service is calling a "one-two punch winter storm" and a "large and complex system" will hit North Dakota and Minnesota this weekend, landing first on western North Dakota, where it will drop freezing rain and/or snow by ...

What the National Weather Service is calling a "one-two punch winter storm" and a "large and complex system" will hit North Dakota and Minnesota this weekend, landing first on western North Dakota, where it will drop freezing rain and/or snow by Friday afternoon. Snow totals could be 6 inches or more, from Jamestown west to Williston, N.D.

By the time it moves up from the south and generally west to east through the region, this storm could bring travel to a standstill and will make it difficult, at the least, said Amanda Homann, a student meteorologist at the weather service office at UND.

The second punch will arrive Sunday morning through Monday when more snow hits eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota, and winds pick up, causing possible blizzard conditions in some areas.

Total snow accumulations from the event, from today through Monday, are forecast to range from 8 to 14 inches, the weather service said.

A winter storm warning goes into effect for much of central and western North Dakota this afternoon through early Monday.

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One of the concerns is that freezing rain could cause a build-up of ice on trees and high line wires, maybe as thick as a quarter-inch of ice, the weather service said. That could down lines and trees; but for sure, it will make roadways slick and slippery. Northern parts of the Red River Valley likely won't see much ice, Homann said. "That will be more in the southern end of the Valley."

For eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota, a winter storm watch will go into effect tonight through late Sunday as a mixture of rain, sleet and snow begins to fall tonight.

It looks as though the ice will accumulate first before snowfall begins in earnest Saturday, which could create lots of problems for travel and power lines, as well as simply walking out to get the mail.

Significant blizzard conditions, in areas that receive a foot or more of snow that will begin to blow around Sunday in a big way, are possible.

It's all part of a big system that moved out of the western states that includes lots of moisture from the Pacific Ocean as well as from the Gulf of Mexico that will pass over the SuperDome in New Orleans where the Minnesota Vikings will be practicing for Sunday's NFC championship game.

While the NFL game is going on late Sunday afternoon in New Orleans, northerly winds will kick up in the greater Red River Valley, with wind speeds as high as 40 mph, making post-game celebrations problematic, except for making snow angels by struggling on the ground like a sacked quarterback.

If there is a blizzard anywhere in the Herald's readership area, the Herald will name it Brett.

In all the bad weather coming this way, the bright side is that temperatures will remain well above normal, although they will move down by Monday as the storm moves out, Homann said.

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On Thursday in Grand Forks at UND, the temperature maxed out at 26 degrees, 13 degrees above normal,and the morning low fell only to 20, which is 26 degrees above the 30-year normal daily low for the date, the weather service reported.

Through the weekend, temperatures will move up into the mid-30s during the day, and fall only to the mid-20s above zero at night. By Tuesday, though, temperatures will move back nearer normal, with lows around 5 degrees, and highs at 10 to 15 above.

"It won't get super cold like it did during the Christmas blizzard," Homann said.

Things are looking up.

Grand Forks got nine hours and four minutes of daylight Thursday, and it's increasing about two minutes a day.

Wear your shades.

Reach Lee at (701) 780-1237; (800) 477-6572, ext. 237; or send e-mail to slee@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: WEATHER
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