Winter is set to commence in the Rockies and Midwest this week as a strong storm brings blizzard conditions and bountiful snowfall to the region.
AccuWeather Global Weather Center – November 7, 2022 –The same storm that is expected to bring substantial rain, mountain snow and cold air to California through Tuesday will strengthen as it swings east across the Colorado Rockies and into the northern Plains. Impending blizzard conditions and hefty snow accumulations could unfold from South Dakota into northern Minnesota, while a mix of rain, snow and sleet may cause difficult travel farther south, AccuWeather forecasters warn.
Before the storm reaches the Rockies and northern Plains, it is expected to unleash feet of mountain snow across the Sierra Nevada range in California through Tuesday night and the Wasatch range in Utah midweek. AccuWeather meteorologists say that Donner Pass in particular is likely to receive a staggering amount of snow in a relatively short period of time this week, with several feet of snow likely causing the mountain pass to be shut down to all travel.
As the storm moves out of the southwestern United States Wednesday night into Thursday, it is expected to intensify.
“This will be the first major snowstorm of the season for the northern Plains and the combination of heavy snow, powerful winds and low visibility will result in hazardous travel,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brian Wimer explained.
Cities such as Fargo and Bismarck, North Dakota, and Rapid City, South Dakota, could be in line to receive blizzard conditions as winds whip across the region Thursday night into Friday with blowing and drifting snow.
It is possible the storm exceeds the blizzard criteria of one-quarter-mile visibility or less with winds of 35 mph or greater for three consecutive hours. Should the storm develop to its full potential, gusts may frequent 50 mph with near-zero visibility in some cases over parts of the northern Rockies and Plains.
Travel will be nearly impossible along portions of Interstates 29, 90 and 94. Winds may gust past 50 mph at times, creating whiteout conditions. This may impact the commute home from work on Thursday evening and the morning commute on Friday. Travelers should also prepare for widespread flight delays and cancellations at airports across the region.
“Any unnecessary travel is not advised in this region, especially later Thursday afternoon through Friday morning,” AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Brett Anderson said.
Accumulations between 6 and 12 inches are expected from portions of the Colorado Rockies and northern Wyoming through northern Minnesota. A wide swath of 12 to 18 inches of snowfall is expected from western South Dakota into northwestern Minnesota with the highest snow accumulations in this zone approaching an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 36 inches.
Billings, Montana, will be on the northern edge of the snow with forecasters predicting 1 to 3 inches in the city. Casper, Wyoming, is predicted to pick up 3 to 6 inches, while accumulations in Rapid City could total around a foot.
In addition to the snow, cold air is expected to blast into portions of eastern Montana through the Dakotas Thursday night into early Friday where AccuWeather RealFeel® temperatures will likely be below zero.
“Farther south and east, enough warmer air may move in aloft to produce a narrow band of sleet and freezing rain from South Dakota to Minnesota Thursday into Thursday night, which may lead to icy roadways,” Anderson explained.