Updated: Powerful snowstorm will sweep across northern North Dakota into northwest Minnesota
It appears Fargo-Moorhead will get mostly rain from the storm system, but the metro area could get snow as the storm winds down.
FARGO — A sweeping storm system that will crawl across the Great Plains this week will produce heavy snow and high winds over much of western and northern North Dakota but could bring mostly rain to the area around Fargo-Moorhead.
Rain will begin falling Tuesday, April 12, in Fargo-Moorhead for much of the day before a “dry slot” will develop, likely placing the metro area within the “eye” of the storm and providing a lull in precipitation, said John Wheeler, WDAY StormTracker chief meteorologist.
In Bismarck, Gov. Doug Burgum announced the closure of the Capitol and other state buildings at 12:30 p.m. Tuesday because of blizzard conditions. State buildings were expected to reopen Wednesday morning.
“It’s definitely going to start as rain on Tuesday,” Wheeler said. “Then we’re going to get dry-slotted on Wednesday.”
Heavy snowfall is expected to the west and north. Valley City could get five to 10 inches of snow, Grand Forks could get five to 12 inches of snow, and Devils Lake may see 13 to 20 inches — which will be driven by high winds, making travel hazardous or impossible, said Jacob Spender, a National Weather Service meteorologist.
“Travel will be impossible in these areas,” he said.
Immobilizing winter impacts are possible across east-central into northeastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota between late Tuesday and Thursday, according to the weather service.
On Tuesday morning, a No Travel advisory was issued for much of southwestern North Dakota due to slippery roads, low visibility and hazardous driving conditions.
Although Fargo-Moorhead and the surrounding area will get a break from the precipitation on Wednesday, areas to the west will be getting heavy snow — one or two feet in many locations — while areas to the east will be getting rain.
“We’ll likely be in the eye,” Wheeler said.
The precipitation lull caused by the dry slot could last anywhere from three to nine hours, Spender said.
The complex storm, fueled by a Colorado low-pressure system, will be very dynamic Thursday and Friday, subject to changing conditions. “It’s going to do unusual things” Thursday and Friday, Spender said.
“We’re going to have to keep a watchful eye on” Thursday and Friday, when the Fargo-Moorhead area could get snow, Wheeler said. In fact, all of the forecasting models call for Fargo to get snow at the end of the storm, but that isn’t 100%, he noted.
“It’s certainly going to be cold enough to snow in Fargo,” he said.
“You can’t be that confident that far out,” Wheeler added Monday afternoon.
Spender agreed it is difficult to predict how much snow or other precipitation the Red River Valley will get as the storm winds down on Thursday and Friday. “This is highly uncertain,” he said, but will start to clarify on Tuesday.
Fargo-Moorhead could get about one to four inches of snow, and Wahpeton could get one to three inches, according to the weather service's Tuesday forecast.
Although rain and snow could mix, it isn’t likely the storm will produce freezing rain, Spender said.
Fargo-Moorhead and areas to the south and east so far are not included in the winter storm warning.
The storm’s impact on river levels wasn’t clear on Tuesday. The National Weather Service hydrograph for the Red River in Fargo as of Tuesday predicted the river will gradually fall from 20.9 feet in minor flood stage.
Because of the high winds expected with the storm, Xcel Energy is mobilizing additional crews to restore power if lines are blown down.