Blizzard conditions expected across U.S. Upper Midwest & Great Lakes

April 13, 2018

Winter Storm Xanto (pronounced ZAN-toe) is strengthening, producing blizzard conditions in the Plains, and will lay down a swath of heavy snow, even some ice, from the Upper Midwest into northern New England into early next week.

First, let's cover what's happening now.

Happening Now

Life-threatening blizzard conditions are underway according to the National Weather Service in western Nebraska. Travel has become impossible across that region due to heavy snowfall and gusty winds.

Most major interstates and roads in South Dakota and western Nebraska are closed due to the conditions. Interstate 70 in eastern Colorado and Interstate 80 in eastern Wyoming is also closed. 

Snow continues to fall elsewhere over much of the High Plains from northeastern Colorado northeastward through South Dakota to central Minnesota. Several locations – including Kit Carson, Colorado and Wheeler, Kansas – have reported blizzard conditions in eastern Colorado, western Kansas and western Nebraska.

Up to an estimated 10 inches of snow has piled up in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Almost 10 inches of snow had accumulated near Great Falls, Montana, and 20 to 30 inches of snow was estimated in the Bridger Range north of Bozeman.

Winds were also ramping up quickly. Frequent gusts of over 40 mph have been clocked Friday morning in southeast Wyoming, eastern Colorado and western Nebraska.

Blizzard, Winter Storm Warnings

Blizzard warnings have been issued by the National Weather Service in parts of six states, including much of South Dakota and Nebraska, northeast Colorado, northwest Kansas, northwest Iowa and southwest Minnesota. Expect whiteout conditions, at times, with travel, particularly in rural areas, becoming impossible. Cities in this warning include Pierre, South Dakota, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, Goodland, Kansas, and North Platte, Nebraska.

Winter storm warnings extend from parts of Montana to the western Dakotas and western Nebraska, and are now in effect in parts of Minnesota and Wisconsin, including the Minneaolis-St. Paul metro area. Difficult driving conditions can be expected in these warnings, including periods of blowing and drifting snow, gusty winds and downed tree limbs.

Winter storm watches extend into the upper Midwest and northern Great Lakes, from parts of eastern Nebraska and Iowa into Wisconsin and most of Michigan, except southern Lower Michigan.

Winter weather advisories, for a mix of sleet, freezing rain and/or snow, have been issued farther east including parts of western, central and upstate New York and across northern and central New England.

Xanto will be a slow-mover, and it may impact portions of the Great Lakes and Northeast through Tuesday night.

To the south of Xanto, gusty winds are expected across a wide swath of the Southwest and southern Plains. These winds, combined with warm temperatures and dry air, will create critical fire weather conditions. 

Timing the Snow

Through Friday Night

  • Wind-driven snow, heavy at times, will hammer parts of South Dakota, southern North Dakota, western Nebraska, southeast Wyoming and eastern Colorado.

  • Blizzard conditions are possible in the blizzard warning areas mentioned earlier, as far south as northwest Kansas and eastern Colorado.

  • Precipitation will transition from rain to snow during the day from west to east across southeastern South Dakota, Nebraska and northern Kansas.

  • Snow will gradually taper off in central and eastern Montana.

  • Friday night, snow will be heaviest from Nebraska and eastern South Dakota into southwest and central Minnesota. Pockets of moderate to heavy snow may also develop in northern Wisconsin and northern Michigan. 

  • Minor accumulations of ice are possible Friday night from southern Minnesota eastward to northern and central Wisconsin and northern Michigan.

Saturday

  • Snow, heavy at times, accompanied by strong winds will continue from eastern South Dakota and eastern Nebraska into parts of the upper Mississippi Valley and the northern Great Lakes.

  • A mix of rain and snow is likely somewhere in the central Great Lakes, with rain for much of the Ohio Valley and southern Great Lakes. 

  • Some freezing rain is likely to bring accumulations of ice to parts of southern Minnesota, central or southern Wisconsin and central Michigan. 

  • A band of sleet, freezing rain or snow will also spread into parts of central and upstate New York and northern New England. 

Sunday

  • Snow, possibly heavy, along with strong winds, may persist in parts of the upper Midwest, particularly, the northern Great Lakes.

  • Bursts of lighter snow may pivot through parts of Missouri and Illinois, as well.

  • Snow, sleet and/or freezing rain will persist in a band from Lower Michigan to upstate New York and northern New England. Some of these areas farther east may see precipitation transition to rain, at some point.

Early Next Week

  • Snow will be stubborn to leave the Great Lakes on Monday and may linger through Monday night.

  • Eventually, the rain/ice line should advance farther north into northern New England Monday.

  • Then, any rain should change to wrap-around snow Monday into Tuesday from the Appalachians to western Pennsylvania, western, central and upstate New York and northern New England.

How Much Snow?

Plains/Midwest

Parts of South Dakota and Nebraska are also expected to pick up over a foot of snow.

While amounts in other parts of the High Plains may not reach a foot, the combination of snow plus high winds will lead to dangerous whiteout conditions at times.

The weight of snow coupled with high winds may lead to some tree damage and power outages, as well.

A sizable swath of the Upper Midwest from southern and central Minnesota into northern Wisconsin and northern Michigan could pick up a foot or more of snow. This could include the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area and will include Green Bay. 

At least some accumulating snow is expected as far south as northern Kansas, Iowa, southern Wisconsin and far northern Illinois. 

Typical for spring snow, warmer ground temperatures and compaction of snow piling on top may mean less snow may be on the ground, particularly on streets, than is forecast in our snowfall forecast.

Northeast

Accumulating snow is also expected from the Appalachians to parts of western, central and northern upstate New York and northern New England. Some of the higher peaks of the Adirondacks and northern New England mountains could pick up over 6 inches of snow through early next week.

Ice Potential

Not typically something you see often in mid-April, accumulating ice, mainly in trees, power lines and other elevated surfaces, is possible from parts of the western Great Lakes to Maine.

Some of those accumulations across northern Lower Michigan, New York state, Vermont, northern New Hampshire and northwestern Maine may be enough to lead to some tree damage and power outages, especially considering strong winds would only add to the stress on trees and power lines.

Weather Underground meteorologist and Category 6 blogger Bob Henson pointed out local NWS offices in Michigan and New York are pointing to the April 2003 ice storm as a potential analog to Xanto, the worst ice storm in almost 30 years in parts of Michigan, according to the Midwest Regional Climate Center

Record April Snowstorm For Some?

The Upper Midwest is certainly no stranger to heavy snowstorms.

But, in April, they're rarer than you might think. Xanto may flirt with the record April snowstorms in some locations, including:

Alpena, Michigan

  • Dating to 1916, there are only three April snowstorms (of three or more days) with at least 1 foot of snow.

  • The record three-day April snowstorm: 22 inches on Apr. 4-6, 2003.

Green Bay, Wisconsin

  • Only four times since 1886 has the home of the Packers had a two-day April snowstorm of at least 10 inches.

  • The record April two-day snowstorm was 11 inches from Apr. 4-5, 1977.

Minneapolis/St. Paul

  • Dating to 1938, Mpls./St. Paul International Airport has only recorded one two-day April 10-inch-plus snowstorm, a 13.6 inch event on April 14, 1983 (all on that day alone).

  • In earlier records dating to 1875, there were two other 10-inch-plus April snowstorms in 1907 and 1893, according to the National Weather Service.

  • Earlier this month, Winter Storm Wilbur dumped 9 inches on Apr. 2-3. 

  • Their record snowiest April is in play, thanks to Wilbur and Xanto - 21.8 inches in 1983.

Valentine, Nebraska

  • Dating to 1889, only three April two-day snowstorms of 1 foot or more.

  • April 17-18, 1995 is the April two-day record-holder (13 inches), however April 17-19, 1920, produced a mammoth 26.3 inches over three days).

Winter Storm Archive

Winter Storm Xanto dropped into the Northwestern United States on April 11th as a strong mid- to upper level jet stream disturbance. This disturbance crossed the northern and central Rockies the following day before becoming a strong surface low pressure system in Kansas and Nebraska on Fri, Apr. 13.

West

Strong winds, some in excess of 70 mph, were seen from California to Utah and Wyoming as the jet stream disturbance dropped into the West. A dash of snow was seen in California's Sierra, but heavier snow fell in the Cascades and Utah's Wasatch.

Taken from The Weather Channel.

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