Winter storm targets North Dakota

There’s no dodging this one.

The National Weather Service says a major winter storm is bearing down on the state and Minot is in the crosshairs. Snowfall is expected to begin in earnest Sunday afternoon and intensify throughout the night. By Monday morning Minoters could be dealing with 7-8 inches of snow. And that, say forecasters, is just the beginning.

A Winter Storm Warning issued Friday says western and central part of the state can expect to receive 7-14 inches of snow by Tuesday evening. Some places may receive a bit more depending on the precise track of the storm. However, there’s little chance anywhere in the western half of the state will be spared.

“The storm can wobble 20 to 30 to 40 miles the next couple of days,” said Patrick Ayd, meteorologist, Bismarck NWS. “It will fluctuate around a little bit.”

Early indications are that Minot could receive over a foot of snow. Garrison, maybe 15 inches. How much snow each area receives depends upon temperatures that could lead to rainfall before dropping a few degrees and the system turns to all snow.

“It definitely will start off rather wet, then transition to cold air and become fluffier,” said Ayd. “The first part of the storm could see wet and heavy snow. There’s some health concerns trying to move this stuff too.”

Because the storm system is still several hours away the NWS advises people to keep close track of developments by making frequent checks on weather forecasts. With freezing rain likely to fall in advance of any snowfall, travel plans should be adjusted accordingly.

The wet conditions are expected to be accompanied by high winds. Minot is expected to have wind gusts in excess of 30 miles per hour Sunday evening and gusts up to 25 mph on Monday. Sunday’s high temperatures are expected to be slightly above freezing but dip several degrees below the freezing mark by late afternoon and evening. Monday and Tuesday highs are forecast to be in the 20’s, meaning any precipitation during that period will be in the form of snow, not rain. Forecast models show it will be Tuesday evening before the storm system moves out of the Minot region.

In a conference call Friday the NWS issued a caution for ranchers who are in the beginning stages of the calving season, noting the storm carries with it “potentially life-threatening conditions” for young livestock with “cold and wet” at the same time and that the storm in western North Dakota could reach “blizzard conditions.”

While it is all but certain the storm will have an adverse effect on travel and ranching operations, it will bring some welcome moisture to a very dry state. However, it is not expected to produce anywhere near enough precipitation to bring soil moisture content up to long-term norms.

March snowstorms are not unusual for North Dakota, often referred to as “tournament storms” because of frequent occurrences during state basketball tournaments. The state Class “B” girl’s basketball tourney finals are tonight in the Minot State University Dome. The first day of spring is March 20.