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April Blizzard: Major storm brings heavy snow, strong winds and hazardous travel, US


A powerful late-season winter storm named Xanto by The Weather Channel will sweep over the United States this week with some very heavy snow and incredibly strong winds. The heaviest snow is expected from the northern Plains to the Upper Midwest. Strong winds are expected to create blizzard conditions in some areas. This event will last through Tuesday, April 17.

A spring storm will gather strength Thursday, April 12 in the West where heavy mountain snow and strong winds will continue. The storm will also bring strong winds to the Desert Southwest and High Plains, with extreme wildfire threats. By Friday, April 13, a variety of hazardous weather is expected in the central and southern U.S., including severe storms in the South and blizzard conditions in the northern Plains.

Winter storm warnings are in effect for portions of the northern Rockies, including in parts of eastern Washington state, northern Idaho, western Montana and northwestern Wyoming. Heavy snow and gusty conditions will create nearly impossible travel through these regions on Thursday. Significant reductions in visibility are likely, TWC forecasters warn.

Winter storm watches have been posted for a large portion of the northern Plains and northern Rockies, and also for a portion of the Midwest. Winter storm watches currently include Minneapolis and Rapid City.

Travel through this area could be hazardous Thursday night into Friday due to moderate to heavy falling snow and wind gusts over 56 km/h (35 mph), which will result in near-blizzard conditions. Some spots could see wind gusts over 80 km/h (50 mph).

Winter weather advisories are in effect for the higher elevations of the Cascades, much of California's Sierra, Utah's Wasatch Mountains, the northern Colorado Rockies and a large portion of the northern Rockies. Driving through these regions will be hazardous due to falling snow and gusty winds. 

"A late season winter storm is developing over the Rockies and Intermountain West Thursday morning, and this will be the main thing making weather headlines to close out the work week and going into the upcoming weekend," NWS forecaster Hamrick noted.

Moderate to heavy snow is expected for the central and northern Rockies through Thursday night, and then it spreads eastward across the northern plains and eventually the Upper Midwest, where winter storm watches are in affect as of early Thursday morning.

The main surface low is forecast to track from Colorado towards Iowa, with widespread 15 – 30 cm (6 to 12 inches) snowfall amounts likely across northern Nebraska, much of South Dakota, and western Minnesota with blizzard conditions possible at times.

Another impressive facet of this event will be the potential for freezing rain from southern Minnesota to northern lower Michigan, which is unusual for this late in the season.

The same storm system is also expected to produce heavy rainfall from eastern Texas to western Kentucky, with the potential for 25 – 76 mm (1 to 3 inches) of rain through early Saturday. A few areas across Louisiana and Arkansas could get over 3 inches based on the latest forecasts.

In addition to the heavy rain, an enhanced risk of severe thunderstorms exists on Friday from northeast Texas to Missouri as moist and unstable air advects northward towards the surface low.

In the temperature department, expect readings to be much warmer than recent days across much of the central and eastern U.S. ahead of the strong cold front, with widespread highs in the 80s (26 – 32 °C) and lows in the 50s and 60s (10 – 15 °C).

There will be an impressive temperature gradient across the Great Lakes region and the Northeast by Friday night and into Saturday with temperatures barely making it above freezing near the Canadian border, along with cloudy skies and mixed wintry precipitation.

Featured image credit: Jacob Ehnmark

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