In a winter with numerous storms and a long stretch of cold weather, the storm forecast for today and Thursday is unique, according to Jeff Schild, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck.
"We haven't had one similar to this all winter," he said. "Not with this heavy a snow, a lot of moisture content and strong winds."
The NWS issued a blizzard warning Tuesday afternoon forecasting 10 to 15 inches of snow for much of south central North Dakota. Temperatures during the snowstorm are forecast to be near 30 degrees resulting in heavy, wet snow. The greatest accumulations of snow are likely from the Jamestown area south to the Ellendale area and then down into central South Dakota, Schild said.
"The kicker is the winds," he said. "Increasing winds as the storm moves through with gusts to 60 mph. The gusty winds continue into Thursday and diminish late Thursday afternoon into the night."
Jerry Bergquist, Stutsman County emergency manager, said the good news concerning the weather came with the higher temperatures Tuesday.
"We put a substantial glaze on the snow we have," he said. "Most of the current snow is locked down."
The bad news is that the new snow will blow with the strong winds in the forecast. Wind gusts of up to 65 mph are possible, the Weather Service said.
This storm comes on the heels of a winter storm that brought heavy snow to the region last week with Jamestown reporting 6 inches of new snow Saturday.
Charlie Russell, Dickey County emergency manager, said he measured nearly 11 inches of snow at Ellendale but as much as 19 inches of snow was reported in the Fullerton area. The heavy snow in that area caused the collapse of some pole-barn roofs.
This storm may be worse, he said.
"It's suppose to be a humdinger," Russell said. "The Weather Service is telling us we'll be seeing snow and mild winds by noon Wednesday."
Schild said the storm is moving into the area from the south. For Jamestown, the snow will gradually develop Wednesday afternoon, continue through the night and taper off through the day Thursday. The gusty winds diminish late Thursday afternoon into the evening.
The NWS advised no travel as part of the blizzard warning.
Snow already on the ground has created high banks along the edges of the roads making it impossible to open some roads with a conventional snowplow, Russell said. Dickey County has contracted with Caterpillar operators to push snow back away from the road edges to make room to push new snow off the roads.
"In a lot of places, we have no place to push the snow," Russell said. "It has been a nightmare and extremely expensive winter here."
Those same conditions would make travel impossible in heavy snow and high winds.
"We need to get everybody where they're going to be by Wednesday evening," Russell said. "Those 'no travel advisories' are poor terms. What it means is it is unsafe to be out there on the roads."