Updated - Winter storm 'a pretty good bet' this weekend
A meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck said there is still a lot of uncertainty about the track of a winter storm forecasted for this weekend, but it's "a pretty good bet" one will be moving through North Dakota.
Jeff Savadel, meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said the weather system that could be producing the winter storm that will impact Christmas travel plans for people in Colorado, South Dakota, North Dakota and possibly Minnesota was near the International Date Line, which is located in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, as of Wednesday afternoon.
"It (the weather system) won't be hitting landfall until Saturday morning," he said, saying it will hit somewhere near southern California.
But Savadel said once the weather system makes landfall, it will become a winter storm and move up through Utah and Colorado. It could take one of three possible tracks, all of which have the system moving through parts or all of North Dakota Saturday night or Sunday into Monday.
"We're not going out with any sort of snowfall total at this time," he said. "Within the next day or two, when we have a better idea about the storm track, you will start seeing stormwatch notices going out."
Savadel said the NWS computer models seem to all be agreeing that the storm system will be in the northern-central Great Plains and could have "some potential significant impacts."
He said the hard part about predicting where a storm will go three to four days ahead of when it is expected to be in a given area is that small changes in the storm's track can have big impacts.
Snow, wind, rain and ice this time of year in the Jamestown area is not unexpected, Savadel said.
Storm could affect flight plans
What will this potential winter storm mean for people traveling to spend time with loved ones on Christmas Day? Well, it depends on how you're traveling, according to Joan Oslund, a travel agent with Jamestown Travel Inc.
She said if someone has booked an airline ticket, she advises her customers to leave their name and phone number with the airline in case there is inclement weather.
"Usually if there is a storm coming, the airline will issue a winter weather waiver," Oslund said. "This waiver allows them (the people who have booked flights) to change their schedules without any penalty."
But, Oslund said airlines usually wait until the last minute to issue the waiver. If people wait until after a storm moves through and change their tickets a day or two after, they can pay a lot of money.
She said the best thing people flying can do is make sure the airline has their phone number in case the flight is canceled or delayed because of the weather. Oslund said if a storm is coming in or has come in and people are flying out that day and aren't sure if the flight has been canceled, they should come to the airport.
"If they don't show up and their flight goes out, they may not get any credit back," she said.