Blizzard to bury north central U.S. under heavy snow, drifts this weekend

Residents of the northern Plains and Upper Midwest who have been dealing with weeks of brutal cold will need to start preparing for a major winter storm set to strike this weekend.

A storm moving through the Rockies into Friday night is expected to blanket the peaks of the Wasatch and Colorado ski country with several inches of snow. Ski resorts will enjoy the powder dump leading into the weekend, and the storm dives into the Plains. 


"Soon after the storm emerges from the Rockies, an area of snow is forecast to expand rapidly, and travel is expected to deteriorate across the northern Plains during Friday night and Saturday," said AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski.

By Saturday morning, snow is expected to spread over the Dakotas, northern Nebraska and western portions of Iowa. In addition to limited visibility, roads will quickly become slick and snow-covered once snow starts falling. 

While snow tapers off during the day in the High Plains, heavy snow will persist across the Dakotas and spread over much of Minnesota and Wisconsin from west to east.

Airline delays can start ramping up at Minneapolis area airports on Saturday afternoon as heavy snow and gusty winds start battering the region.

"During Saturday night to Sunday morning, the storm will likely be at its strongest with windswept snow from the Dakotas and northern Nebraska to much of Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and part of northern Michigan," Sosnowski said. "Strengthening winds will greatly lower the visibility and cause extensive blowing and drifting snow, especially at the tail end of the storm and even as the sky begins to clear."

Wind gusts can exceed 50 mph, threatening to topple high-profile vehicles and leading to power outages and property damage. These winds will also limit the effectiveness of snow plowing, since new drifts can quickly obscure roadways.

Travel will be extremely dangerous through Saturday night as a result, with closures possible on long stretches of Interstates 90, 29 and 94.

Millions will wake up to several inches of fresh snow on Sunday morning, with 6-12 inches of accumulation expected in central Minnesota, southeastern North Dakota, eastern South Dakota, northern Wisconsin and northrn Michigan. However, it may be difficult to measure snow totals due to extensive blowing and drifting.

There can be an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 16 inches in this corridor. 

Otherwise, a general 3 to 6 inches of snow is expected from parts of northern Wyoming and southern Montana to central Wisconsin.

Download the free AccuWeather app to check forecast snow amounts and timing in your area.

Farther south, rain mixing in with the snow will limit snow totals across Nebraska and northern Iowa.

In the wake of the storm on Sunday, calm, frigid conditions will settle over the Plains while gusty winds persist over the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes region.

A disruptively windy day is also expected across the mid-Atlantic, where gusts could reach 45 mph. 

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Snow batters Midwest after Thanksgiving
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Snow batters Midwest after Thanksgiving
Heavy traffic is seen on Interstate 190 near O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. A winter storm is expected to dump snow across the Midwest, on one of the busiest travel days of the year. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
Snow Warning signs mark an entrance to the Kansas Turnpike near Lawrence, Kan., Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. The turnpike section of I-70 remains open. I-70 is closed west of Junction City, Kan. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
Pedestrians walk as snow falls Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in downtown Kansas City, Mo. A winter storm blanketed much of the central Midwest with snow on Sunday at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, bringing blizzard-like conditions that grounded hundreds of flights and forced the closure of major highways on one of the busiest travel days of the year. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Rows of corn stalks stand in blowing snow north of Nebraska City, Neb., Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. Blizzard-like conditions have closed highways and delayed air travel as a winter storm moves through the Midwest. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 26: Residents in Humboldt Park dig out after an early winter snowstorm dumped several inches snow on the neighborhood on November 26, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The storm, which started yesterday morning with rain turning to snow, dumped upwards to a foot of snow in Chicago and the surrounding area. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
Covered in plastic bags, Lyubov Menkevich walks near the Palatine Trails in the snow on Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in Palatine, Ill. (Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 26: Residents in Humboldt Park dig out after an early winter snowstorm dumped several inches snow on the neighborhood on November 26, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. The storm, which started yesterday morning with rain turning to snow, dumped upwards to a foot of snow in Chicago and the surrounding area. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)
A woman shovels snow around her stuck car during a snowstorm in Arlington Heights, Illinois, U.S. November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski
A snow plow truck clears the streets in Des Plaines, Illinois, U.S. November 26, 2018. REUTERS/Kamil Krzaczynski
Workers carry snow shovels as snow falls Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in downtown Kansas City, Mo. A winter storm blanketed much of the central Midwest with snow on Sunday at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, bringing blizzard-like conditions that grounded hundreds of flights and forced the closure of major highways on one of the busiest travel days of the year. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
A pedestrian walks as snow falls Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018, in downtown Kansas City, Mo. A winter storm blanketed much of the central Midwest with snow on Sunday at the end of the Thanksgiving weekend, bringing blizzard-like conditions that grounded hundreds of flights and forced the closure of major highways on one of the busiest travel days of the year. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
Snow builds on road signs near Lawrence, Kan., Sunday, Nov. 25, 2018. I-70 is closes from Junction City, Kan., to Wakeeney, Kan., due to low visibility. The area is in a blizzard warning. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)
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