The same storm poised to unleash severe weather with high winds and the risk of multiple tornadoes over the Mississippi Valley will also have a wintry side, with AccuWeather meteorologists homing in on a zone of accumulating snow and high winds that can make for dangerous travel from northern Nebraska to northern Michigan late this week.
Severe weather will take center stage due to a storm from California that will re-energize over the Great Plains on Thursday before swinging northeastward toward the Upper Midwest on Friday.
However, the storm will have just enough cold air to work with on its northern and western side to produce a broad zone of accumulating snow from northwestern Nebraska, eastern Wyoming and South Dakota to a large part of Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and northern Michigan.
How nasty the weather becomes in part of this zone will depend on how quickly the storm strengthens as it tracks northeastward. A powerful storm is more likely to bring blizzard conditions on its northwestern flank than a weaker storm that would produce moderate breezes and snow.
For an official blizzard to be declared, winds must be sustained or gusting to 35 mph, and the visibility must be one-quarter of a mile or less for three consecutive hours, according to the National Weather Service. But, even with conditions not quite up to those standards, wind-blown snow and poor visibility can still create dangerous travel conditions.
AccuWeather’s team of meteorologists is weighing two scenarios for the snow aspect of the storm and the potential for blizzard conditions.
“One scenario is that the storm will undergo quick intensification on Friday and result in a wide swath of heavy snow from portions of South Dakota to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Reneé Duff said.
“The other scenario on the table would delay the intensification of the storm and potential blizzard zone until Friday night and Saturday morning, which would result in less snow accumulation across the northern Plains and far greater amounts across northern Michigan,” Duff said.
Regardless of which scenario pans out, travel trouble is likely where the snow comes down heavily. This could include vast stretches of interstates 29, 35, 90 and 94. There is the potential for a zone where 6-12 inches of snow piles up with locally higher amounts, depending on when the storm matures. Many locations from the northern Plains to the Upper Midwest are likely to pick up at least a few inches of snow from the storm.
Only a few dozen miles in parts of Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin could separate the area of accumulating snow from severe thunderstorms and possible tornadoes from Friday afternoon to Friday night.
While much of the Midwest and Northeast have been in a snow drought this winter, portions of the northern Plains and Upper Midwest have had more than their share of snow.
Minneapolis has received nearly double its historical average of snow with 81.2 inches thus far, compared to the 30-year average of 47 inches through late March.
Depending on the track and intensity of the storm, the Twin Cities may pick up a few additional inches of snow. The winter of 2022-23 is currently the eighth-snowiest on record in Minneapolis. In order to move into the top five snowiest winters, the seasonal total there will need to reach 84.9 inches to tie the winter of 1916-17.
Produced in association with AccuWeather