Plains blizzard heralds unusually cold weather for Lower 48


The first major winter storm of the season, which has ravaged the western and northern plains with record snowfall, is bringing the first legitimately arctic air mass of the season to much of the country.

By early next week, the entire contiguous United States is expected to be in the grip of below normal temperatures. This is an unusual event at a time so often dominated by above normal temperatures due to human-induced climate change.

And the cold air will strengthen as the next week goes by. An area of ​​high pressure of atypical intensity over Alaska and southeastern Canada is expected to dislodge much of the cold available from northern latitudes into the Lower 48.

It’s not uncommon for snow to fall on the northern plains in November, but the amount that fell with this storm, which ushers in the nationwide blast of freezing air, was extraordinary.

Seventeen inches piled up in Bismarck, ND, on Thursday, the city’s second snowiest day on record and just 0.3 inches off first place. Jonathan Erdman, meteorologist tweeted that more than twice as much snow has fallen from this single storm than Bismarck sees in the average November: 8 inches.

Several reports of around 2 feet of snow came from central North Dakota not far from Bismarck. These include 24 inches near Mandan, 22 inches near Steele, and 19 inches near Lincoln. The winds blew up to 40 to 50 mph to create drifts of 3 to 5 feet in places.

A long band of at least 8 to 12 inches stretched from near Yellowstone National Park through much of eastern Montana, North Dakota and northern Minnesota. At least several centimeters fell as far south as central Wyoming and southwestern South Dakota.

Roads in and around Bismarck remained largely closed Friday morningbut conditions were slowly improving across the state.

On Friday morning, a powerful cold front extended near the low pressure that caused the blizzard — near Lake Superior — to the Texas-Mexico border. This cold front will continue to slide eastward today, eventually merging with the remnants of Hurricane Nicole and clearing the eastern seaboard early this weekend.

Nicole’s remains will bring heavy rain and a tornado threat to the eastern United States

Given very hot conditions ahead of the front — including record highs — much of the Plains and the Midwest saw a 24-hour temperature change of up to 50 degrees.

Actual temperatures early Friday ranged from minus-4 in Great Falls, Mont., to 28 in Kansas City, Mo. The numbers and highs dominated the snowy northern plains with high 20s and 30s stretching from the Texas Panhandle to Milwaukee. The wind chill was around 10 to 15 degrees below the air temperature, with most of the northern plains feeling at or below zero.

Temperatures behind the front are expected to be about 10 to 20 degrees colder than normal, except 20 to 30 or more below normal in Montana and the Dakotas. Friday’s highs range from teenagers near the Canadian border to 20s and 30s across much of the Midwest. Saturday morning lows are expected to drop below freezing across much of the northern Plains, with single-digit numbers as far south as the Nebraska-Kansas border and 40 to the Gulf Coast.

As the cold front clears the East Coast early Saturday, it will take some time for cold air to pass over Appalachia. By Monday, all of the Lower 48 — except for a few small pockets — is expected to face below normal temperatures.

Cold model ready to recharge

As the first cold snap takes over the country and then subsides a bit, a large area of ​​high pressure is expected to develop and become unusually strong over western North America next week. This is a recipe for sending air directly from the North Pole into Canada and much of the contiguous United States.

Prepare to hear that it is warmer in Alaska than anywhere else as cold air is dislodged south. Also be prepared for a slap of frigid air like in the middle of winter.

Mid to late next week, freezing conditions will dip across the plains. Readings of 30 to 40 degrees below normal are again possible by Friday in the northern Plains and Rockies. While the air mass will likely moderate somewhat as it moves eastward, temperatures of 10 to 20 degrees below normal will be widespread by next weekend across the central and eastern United States.

It’s too far out to provide any real detail, but with cold air and a relatively active storm track, there may be chances for wintry weather.

The first such opportunity could arrive in the middle of next week, and it could bring a chance of snow for the Midwest and the Ohio Valley. The northeast, likely north of Washington, will also need to watch the progress of this potential winter weather factor.

There are some hints that the cold pattern will ease in about 10 days to two weeks, allowing for a thaw around Thanksgiving, but confidence is low in such distant projections.

About Roberto Frank

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