Update: Blizzard warning issued
The blizzard watch for the area has been changed to a blizzard warning, to begin at 9 p.m. today and set to end at 6 p.m. Thursday.
For current watches and warnings in the area, click here.
The National Weather Service office in Bismarck issued a blizzard watch for the James River Valley and the rest of eastern North Dakota for late tonight into Thursday.
The watch follows a period where temperatures were expected to dip and then rise more than 40 degrees from Tuesday night into today. Lows Tuesday night were expected to drop to minus 4 with a high of 39 forecasted for today.
NWS Meteorologist Bill Abeling said the watch goes into effect late tonight and runs through 6 p.m. Thursday.
For Jamestown Public School Superintendent Robert Lech, the blizzard watch means he and school staff will be paying closer attention to the weather.
Lech said he looks at different factors in determining if schools should be closed.
“I check with surrounding school districts to see what they are doing, and (check) if the weather conditions will continue to make travel difficult throughout the day,” he said. Lech said he also checks with the NWS to see if weather conditions will be changing.
So far for the 2013-14 school year Jamestown Public Schools has only had one snow day, and that was Jan. 6 due to the extreme cold.Abeling said the wind is expected to be steady at 30 to 38 miles per hour, gusting up to 55 mph tonight and through most of Thursday. A warm front is expected to move across the state today, with a stronger storm system right behind it. Abeling said the amount of snow with the storm will be light, maybe an inch of accumulation, but the winds could gust up to 55 to 60 miles per hour.
“Winds that strong can break the crust on top of the snow, and that will create a blowing snow condition,” he said.
Abeling said the blizzard watch was issued due to expected strong winds and the potential for blowing snow.
“There is a lot that is up in the air about the forecast,” he said. “One thing we’re pretty sure on is the big wind Wednesday night into Thursday.”
The NWS forecast for today calls for snow and sleet likely before 2 p.m. The snow will be heavy at times, with the high temperature reaching 36 sometime in the afternoon. The wind will be out of the south at 8 to 13 mph, which will shift to the west and be steady at 20 to 30 mph, with gusts up to 41 mph.
Tonight there will be widespread blowing snow and a low of around 22. The wind will be steady out of the west at 30 to 38 mph with gusts up to 55.
Thursday there is a 30 percent chance of precipitation, with a high of 22. The wind will continue out of the west at 30 to 38 mph and gusting up to 55 creating wind chill values of minus 20, the NWS said. The blowing snow will continue up to 9 p.m. Thursday, then start to decrease after midnight into early Friday morning. The low temperature for Thursday night is forecasted at minus 5.
Abeling said anyone who is going to be traveling later today and tonight should pay attention to the weather forecast and be aware of current road and weather conditions.
Sun reporter Chris Olson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org