Travel will become dangerous, if not impossible, across the north-central United States on Christmas Day as a blizzard and ice unfold.
The same storm bringing Christmas Eve snow to the Intermountain West will significantly strengthen across the north-central U.S. on Sunday.
Blizzard to dump more than a foot of snow on the Dakotas
Snow and wind will increase during the day from western South Dakota and surrounding areas to northeastern North Dakota with an all-out blizzard developing in the afternoon.
A blizzard raging in far northwestern Nebraska as severe thunderstorms threaten eastern parts of the state will clearly illustrate the storm’s intensity on Christmas Day.
“The heaviest snow and worst of the blizzard conditions will occur from Rapid City, South Dakota, to Bismarck and Grand Forks, North Dakota,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rathbun said.
The blizzard will expand into southern Manitoba, including Winnipeg, and northern Ontario at night.
More than a foot of snow will bury places north of Rapid City to Winnipeg with strong winds leading to significantly blowing and drifting snow.
Residents planning to travel to family or friends on Christmas Day will face rapidly deteriorating conditions on Sunday afternoon and night.
Travel will become extremely dangerous, if not impossible for about 12 hours. Officials may be forced to close portions of I-29, I-90 and I-94.
“The combination of heavy snow and winds gusting over 50 mph will reduce visibility to feet at times,” Rathbun said.
Anyone who must travel should pack a winter survival kit. Venturing out on foot during the blizzard will be life-threatening.
Ice to create travel dangers, isolated power outages in the Upper Midwest
As the blizzard unfolds, an icy mix will target the rest of the Upper Midwest on Christmas Day.
“Where sleet and/or freezing rain mixes in, snow totals will be greatly reduced,” Rathbun said. The danger of slick roads and sidewalks, however, will not lessen. It only takes a thin glaze of ice to make untreated surfaces extremely slippery.
Travel threatens to become treacherous for a time in Aberdeen, South Dakota; Fargo, North Dakota; Minneapolis, St. Cloud and Duluth, Minnesota; Madison and Wausau, Wisconsin; and Marquette, Michigan.
Flight delays and cancellations could spoil last-minute holiday travel plans.
Freezing drizzle will begin to glaze places from South Dakota to southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois, including Chicago, during the predawn hours of Christmas.
The ice will increase and expand northward to northern Minnesota and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan on Christmas.
The ice will mix with snow or sleet in northern areas with an eventual change to rain from southwest to northeast into Sunday night.
In downtown Chicago, any ice will quickly change to rain early on Christmas morning. The threat for freezing drizzle will linger longer in the far western suburbs.
The most prolonged freezing rain could lead to isolated power outages with the area from the eastern border of the Dakotas to northern Wisconsin most at risk.
Travel hazards in the north-central U.S. will not end when the icy mix changes to rain or the blizzard winds down.
Temperatures plunging back below freezing will cause any wet or slushy spots to freeze in the Upper Midwest on Sunday night into Monday morning, while gusty winds will further blow and drift snow on Monday in the Dakotas.
“Travel will remain poor on Monday on the roads and in the air due to blowing snow, and roads are still likely to be covered with snow,” Rathbun said.
Subzero AccuWeather RealFeel® Temperatures will put anyone not properly dressed when shoveling snow at risk for frostbite and hypothermia.