Upper Midwest braces for blizzard, nearly 2 feet of snow

Monster Winter Storm Threatens Upper Midwest with Blizzards and Heavy Snowfall

Introduction

A massive winter storm is targeting the Upper Midwest, posing a significant threat of blizzard conditions, bitterly cold temperatures, and record-breaking snowfall. This three-day onslaught is expected to affect more than 40 million Americans, with some areas potentially receiving up to 2 feet of snow.

Storm Duration and Affected Areas

The storm began midday on Tuesday and is projected to continue through Thursday morning, impacting parts of the Dakotas, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, and Wisconsin. The National Weather Service warns of winds gusting as high as 50 mph (80 kph) and wind chills plummeting to minus 50 degrees (minus 46 Celsius) in certain regions.

Historic Snowfall Predicted

This winter storm has the potential to bring historic snowfall to a region already accustomed to heavy snow. The National Weather Service estimates that as much as 25 inches may accumulate, with the heaviest amounts falling across east-central Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin. If these projections hold true, it would mark the first time the Minneapolis-St. Paul area has seen 2 feet of snow or more in over 30 years.

Preparation and Impact on Daily Life

As the storm approaches, families are scrambling to complete last-minute shopping before weather conditions worsen. At a Costco in the Minneapolis suburb of St. Louis Park, Molly Schirmer stocked up on heat-and-serve dinners and Mexican Coca-Colas, anticipating the possibility of being stuck at home with her two teenagers. Schools are already preparing for online classes, further cementing the likelihood of extended periods spent indoors.

Residents are taking precautions by rescheduling medical appointments and family gatherings to avoid unnecessary travel on treacherous roads. Larry and Sue Lick, who shopped at another Costco in suburban Eagan, bought essentials like toilet paper and coffee to ensure they are well-prepared. They expressed concern about other drivers who may be inexperienced in winter conditions.

Two Rounds of Snow

The National Weather Service predicts that the blizzard will occur in two rounds. The first round is expected to hit the Minneapolis-St. Paul area on Wednesday afternoon, bringing up to 7 inches of snow. The second round, commencing later on Wednesday and continuing into Thursday, is forecasted to be the most intense, with an additional 10 to 20 inches expected.

Life-Threatening Conditions and Extreme Cold

Forecasters have issued warnings about life-threatening conditions and extreme cold temperatures. The storm’s aftermath could bring temperatures as low as minus 15 to minus 20 degrees on Thursday (minus 26 to minus 29 Celsius) and even colder in Grand Forks, North Dakota, reaching minus 25 degrees (minus 32 Celsius) on Friday. Wind chills of 50 degrees below zero are possible.

Strong winds, with gusts of up to 35 mph (56 kph), are anticipated in western and central Minnesota, causing significant blowing and drifting snow. Open areas may experience whiteout conditions, further adding to the dangers posed by the storm.

Potential Historic Snowfall in Perspective

According to the National Weather Service, the Twin Cities experienced its largest recorded snowfall during the Halloween Blizzard of 1991, with 28.4 inches of snow falling from October 31st to November 3rd. The second-largest snowfall occurred from November 29th to December 1st, 1985, totaling 21.1 inches. On January 22nd and 23rd, 1982, the Twin Cities received 20 inches of snow.

Impact on Daily Activities

The impending storm has already led Minnesota state lawmakers to cancel all committee hearings scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday, as well as the Thursday floor sessions. The legislative schedule will resume on Monday, as Friday is not a regular meeting day.

Hardware store owners are observing varied customer behavior. At C&S Supply in Mankato, manager Corey Kapaun notes that while demand for salt and grit is high, there is little interest in shovels or snow blowers. Kapaun attributes this to the fact that winter is already two-thirds over. Despite this, he has sold over 130 snow blowers and around 1,000 shovels this winter, given the area’s snowfall exceeding 3 feet.

In Sioux Falls, Dallas VandenBos, the owner of Robson True Value hardware store, has seen a similar trend. While sales of snow-related items have not significantly increased, there is a backlog of snow blower repairs. Unfortunately, those bringing in snow blowers on Tuesday will have to wait a week to have them repaired, missing the upcoming snowfall.

Potential Icing and Travel Hazards

The storm system may also result in icing across a 1,300-mile (2,092-kilometer) band from near Omaha, Nebraska, to New Hampshire on Wednesday and Thursday. This creates the potential for travel hazards in or near cities such as Milwaukee, Detroit, Chicago, and Boston. Portions of northern Illinois, southern Michigan, and southern New York could experience up to half an inch of ice, which may lead to power line damage and outages.

Surprising Snowfall in California

While the focus is on the northern U.S., significant snowfall is also expected in the foothills and mountains near Los Angeles, California. Even elevations as low as 1,000 feet may see several inches of snow. UCLA climate scientist Daniel Swain stated on Twitter that nearly the entire population of the state will have the opportunity to witness snow if they look in the right direction. The central coast of California is expected to face potentially damaging winds of 50 mph (80 kph), with gusts reaching 70 mph (113 kph) in the mountains.

Record-Breaking Warmth in Mid-Atlantic and Southeast

While the northern U.S. braces for winter conditions, the mid-Atlantic and Southeast regions are expecting record-breaking warmth later in the week. Temperatures 30 to 40 degrees above normal are anticipated. Record highs are likely from Baltimore to New Orleans and throughout much of Florida. Washington, D.C. could even reach 80 degrees on Thursday, surpassing the previous record of 78 degrees set in 1874.

Conclusion

The Upper Midwest is preparing for a significant winter storm that may bring blizzard conditions, extreme cold, and historic snowfall. Residents are taking precautions and stocking up on essentials, while officials are urging caution and advising against unnecessary travel. As the storm progresses, it is essential to stay updated on weather alerts and follow safety guidelines to ensure the well-being of individuals and communities.