Alarmingly like clockwork, our 2nd annual October snowstorm is creeping its way northeast. Last year, the area saw incredible snowfall amounts during a historic storm October 10-11, 2018. And knowing how weather works, it seems that the newest round of this fall-wintery fury is just a cruel coincidence.
There are a few things, however, that sets these two storms apart.
One is the great uncertainty with which meteorologists view snowfall totals, rain/snow changeover, timing and direction of this coming storm. Another is that the area will not see one system dropping snow, wind and cold, but two. The first “round” (sounds kind of like a boxing match, doesn’t it?) is expected in the area Wednesday overnight through Thursday night, beginning with rain on Wednesday and changing to snow through the night and into the next day. Meteorologists say that because some of the factors determining the timing of that rain-to-snow change are not quite certain yet, areas of heaviest snowfall have not been named. NWS says “the rain/snow line will be very narrow and critical to how much snow falls.”
Round 2 (is it appropriate, if we consider this boxing, to name this the “knockout?”) brings another system to our backyards, with potential for heavy snow and strong winds. The confidence of this storm’s track, precipitation, heavily impacted areas and temperatures is even more lacking than with round 1, so meteorologists are encouraging everyone to keep an eye on the ever-changing forecast.
As per one of the NWS’ graphics, valley city sits right n the edge of the circle indicating the areas of least confidence in snow amounts. Graphics from the Weather Channel show potential for 23”+ while others predict 6-10” for the same area.
Winter Storm Watches and Advisories have been issued for counties across Montana, South Dakota and North Dakota which, the NWS says, are in effect “for 6 to 12 inches of snow, with scattered higher amounts likely.” The certainty for low temperatures and widespread snow accumulation is high; we just don’t yet know where those scattered higher amounts will drop.
As of Tuesday evening, Barnes County is under a Winter Storm Watch from October 10 at 7 a.m. to October 11 at 7 a.m.
Listed Hazards from the NWS are 1) widespread snow accumulations, 2) possible heavy snow accumulations, 3) high snowfall rates creating whiteout conditions and reduced visibility at times.
Besides travel, the conditions may also cause tree damage and sporadic power outages, especially where the heaviest snow occurs.
What is uncertain?
Track of the storm
Exact amounts and locations of the heaviest snowfall
possible blizzard conditions
significant impact to agriculture and ranchers
Despite the uncertainties we face with these two systems, three things are for sure: we will be seeing flakes, it will be chilly, and I will be grumpy.
May your tires be ready and your autostart operational!