Midwest Blizzard Takes Shape Today Jan 26, 2014

Thanks to a fast moving and powerful clipper system, fluffy snow of 2″ to 4″ will be blowing around significantly through AM Monday. This was the view from Wishek, ND from midday Sunday.

 

A weather report from a nearby observations station suggested heavy snow falling at the time of observation, but it was due to blowing snow! Winds were gusting up to near 45mph at the time!

Strong Pressure Gradient

Take a look at the line of equal air pressure across the Upper Midwest. Note how close the lines are… that tightly packed pressure gradient is whipping up quite a wind!

Wind Gusts

Here are some of the wind gusts reported earlier today.

No Travel Advised

Interestingly, nearly three-quarters of the state of ND is under a No Travel Advised.

Blizzard Warnings Continue

The National Weather Service continues Blizzard Warnings across a good chunk of the Dakotas through Iowa until PM Sunday/AM Monday.

What is a blizzard?

Blizzards are dangerous winter storms that are a combination of blowing snow and wind resulting in very low visibilities. While heavy snowfalls and severe cold often accompany blizzards, they are not required. Sometimes strong winds pick up snow that has already fallen, creating a ground blizzard.

Officially, the National Weather Service defines a blizzard as a storm which contains large amounts of snow OR blowing snow, with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibilities of less than 1/4 mile for an extended period of time (at least 3 hours). When these conditions are expected, the National Weather Service will issue a “Blizzard Warning”. When these conditions are not expected to occur simultaneously, but one or two of these conditions are expected, a “Winter Storm Warning” or “Heavy Snow Warning” may be issued.

Blizzard conditions often develop on the northwest side of an intense storm system. The difference between the lower pressure in the storm and the higher pressure to the west creates a tight pressure gradient, or difference in pressure between two locations, which in turn results in very strong winds. These strong winds pick up available snow from the ground, or blow any snow which is falling, creating very low visibilities and the potential for significant drifting of snow.

Where did the term blizzard come from?

In the 1870’s, an Iowa newspaper used the word “blizzard” to describe a snowstorm. Previously, the term blizzard referred to a canon shot or a volley of musket fire. By the 1880’s, the use of the word blizzard was used by many across the United States and in England.

The upper Midwest and Great Plains of the United States tends to be the region that experiences blizzards most often. With few trees or other obstructions to reduce wind and blowing snow, this part of the country is particular vulnerable to blizzards. However, blizzards can occur in any location that has a climate that experiences snowfall. Northern Arizona can experience blizzard conditions when a strong low pressure system moves across southern Arizona and high pressure builds strongly into the Great Basin. However, these conditions are rarely met due to the infrequency of strong low pressure systems moving through the state.

What makes a blizzard dangerous?

Blizzards can create life-threatening conditions. Traveling by automobile can become difficult or even impossible due to “whiteout” conditions and drifting snow. Whiteout conditions occur most often with major storms that produce a drier, more powdery snow. In this situation, it doesn’t even need to be snowing to produce whiteout conditions, as the snow which is already on the ground is blown around, reducing the visibility to near zero at times.

The strong winds and cold temperatures accompanying blizzards can combine to create another danger. The wind chill factor is the amount of cooling one “feels” due to the combination of wind and temperature. During blizzards, with the combination of cold temperatures and strong winds, very low wind chill values can occur. It is not uncommon in the Midwest to have wind chills below -60F during blizzard conditions. Exposure to such low wind chill values can result in frostbite or hypothermia. For more information, go to the NWS wind chill web page.

Blizzards also can cause a variety of other problems. Power outages can occur due to strong winds and heavy snow. Pipes can freeze and regular fuel sources may be cut off.

People should never venture out in blizzards, nor should they continue to travel if a storm is upgraded to a blizzard. To protect yourself from the effects of winter storms, including blizzards, the National Weather Service suggests the following web resources:

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/fgz/safety/win-info.php?wfo=fgz

http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/warnings.php?wfo=fgz

Thanks for checking in and have a great week ahead. Don’t forget to follow me on Twitter @TNelsonWNTV

 

2 responses to “Midwest Blizzard Takes Shape Today

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Tweets

It was a cloudy and wet day in Portland for the start to the work week. Rain continues today! https://t.co/J31mFyM12Q

10 minutes ago by WeatherNation

Wind alerts for the High Plains and the Northern Rockies through Thursday. Here is the very latest --->… https://t.co/el3s3u1XwB

27 minutes ago by WeatherNation

If you need some Christmas spirit to go along with those chilly temps, check out this scene in Duluth as the sun wa… https://t.co/boJBxyZil9

6 hours ago by WeatherNation

We love when all the pets can get in on the snow fun! 😍 https://t.co/CVhR1DdtQn

6 hours ago by WeatherNation

Driving in this amount of snow definitely takes the right vehicle. What do you think this viewer is driving? #VAwx https://t.co/qPRC4VahFn

7 hours ago by WeatherNation

DO YOU SEE WHAT WE SEE? Wave clouds rolling through the sky in this time lapse, also known as Kelvin Helmholtz clou… https://t.co/pLbAiGwpVu

8 hours ago by WeatherNation

Here's another look at the stormy seas along the Carolina coast on Monday as the last of the powerful storm system… https://t.co/eRUbmgEAn2

9 hours ago by WeatherNation

That looks different! For the first time in several weeks, the @NWSCPC forecast is showing higher-than-average chan… https://t.co/ctI0FRwPGF

10 hours ago by WeatherNation

NEW: A blizzard warning has been issued for northwest Montana in advance of the next, strong winter storm. Wind gus… https://t.co/MTi43ZO1Cq

11 hours ago by WeatherNation

Series of storms in the Pacific Northwest could bring close to 3 feet of #snow for parts of the Northern Cascades o… https://t.co/qq3Lx0SLvH

11 hours ago by WeatherNation

One for the record books? Our Meteorologist @SteveGlazier compares the latest #winterstorm to top December snowfall… https://t.co/maffNOSC9g

11 hours ago by WeatherNation

GOES-17 is set to become operational in January as GOES West. Details: https://t.co/C3TmTV4Lvv https://t.co/FowX6BHTjT

12 hours ago by WeatherNation

ANGRY SEAS - Whoa, look at these waves crashing off the Carolina coast! A gale warning continues through tonight… https://t.co/xRcStYByuq

12 hours ago by WeatherNation

The sea along the North Carolina coast is turning foamy as the current system continues its trek east. https://t.co/M1KP2Vnjvh

13 hours ago by WeatherNation

**JUST IN** TWO tornadoes confirmed near Tampa Bay, FL on Sunday, wind damage across Pasco County...here's the late… https://t.co/PgIk3SY6iJ

14 hours ago by WeatherNation

Flakes are flying in Alabama! https://t.co/rsLb1ajWfc

15 hours ago by WeatherNation

Heavy snow led to a gas station roof collapse in Morganton, North Carolina. 🎥 @ScottyPowell_WX. https://t.co/RB6eOwMb3d

16 hours ago by WeatherNation
Follow Us