Just when we were getting used to an early January thaw, it looks like there could be a rather significant change in the air in time for the weekend. A large storm system is forecast to enter the Northern Plains later this evening, bringing with it a wide variety of winter weather starting tonight.
The National Weather Service forecast office in Grand Forks is forecasting that the system will begin with freezing rain, and has issued a freezing rain advisory, which is in effect from 6 p.m. Thursday evening until noon in Friday. At that point, as temperatures turn colder, a winter storm watch kicks in and as of now remains in place through Saturday morning. The advisory and watch areas encompass Crookston and Polk County and a large area that extends to the international border with Canada.
Snow will develop in the Devils Lake basin and continue into Friday night. South of that area the potential exists for a freezing rain and snow mix before it changes to all snow late Friday for the entire area, as is the possibility of significant freezing rain in West Central Minnesota, with two-tenths of an inch in ice accumulation possible.
As for the snow accumulations, we could see accumulations of up to 6-9 inches Friday through Saturday for a line from Cooperstown, N.D. to Grand Forks and up to Roseau. It will depend on the track of this system where the heaviest snow will fall.
Besides the snow, wind will blow it around, and frigid temperatures are expected to move in as the system starts to move out on Saturday. On Friday, north winds will be on the rise between 25-30 miles per hour with wind chills falling to 25 below at night. In addition to that, the winds will allow for a great deal of blowing and drifting snow and quite possibly blizzard conditions for the northern part of the valley into the Devils Lake basin. Currently, a wind advisory is in effect until later this afternoon for south winds capable of gusting up to 45 mph.
The exact track for this storm is still unknown, and like all winter storms, the forecast is constantly changing. Still, be aware of the upcoming weather forecasts and make sure to take all of the proper precautions for preparing for winter weather. At some point, as the storm's track becomes more defined, the winter storm watch will either be upgraded to a winter storm warning, or downgraded to a winter weather advisory.