A Thanksgiving snowstorm could make travel dangerous and difficult for people returning home after the holidays, according to forecasts from the National Weather Service.
Adam Jones, with the National Weather Service in Bismarck, said snow is expected to begin picking up across northwestern North Dakota starting Thursday night. How much snow is uncertain, but at this point, the forecast is predicting about 4 inches.
The storm will likely shift quickly toward the east, which, forecasters say appears set to bear the brunt of things.
Regardless of how much snow the Williston area gets, however, strong winds are expected Friday and Saturday on into Sunday. That will blow whatever snow we do get around, reducing visibility, and creating the potential for blizzard-like conditions.
That will make travel conditions hazardous for motorists trying to return home after Thanksgiving.
Temperature-wise, a cold front is also on the way, Jones added.
“It won’t be a really strong Arctic blast,” Jones said. “It won’t be bitterly cold.”
The forecast shows temperatures returning to more like normal, with mid to upper 20s for Friday and Saturday, and upper teens for Sunday.
That’s far colder than what it has been, however, so may feel abnormally cold.
Jones said the high on Sunday was 50 degrees, which is 15 degrees above the normal 35 degrees for the region.
The Thanksgiving storm is expected to cover a large, multi-state area, Jones added. It will stretch from the Canada border to South Dakota, Minnesota, Wyoming and Montana.
Where the storm sets up could make a big difference in outcomes, according to Ryan Walsh, with the National Weather Service Billings office in Montana.
“At this time, there is a considerable amount of uncertainty, but the further east you go, especially into the Dakotas, we have more confidence those areas will see significant accumulated snowfall,” he said. “And in the Dakotas, potentially blizzard conditions, which could be an issue for any holiday travelers returning to North Dakota or Montana.”
He is predicting from 1 to 2 inches in northeastern Montana.
“The bottom line is, stay tuned to the forecast through the weekend as details emerge and our forecast gets refined,” he said.
Looking further out, in the 8 to 14-day range, the models show a slightly better chance for slightly below normal temperatures, with no strong signal either way on precipitation.
For the three-month outlook there are equal chances of a warmer than normal winter, but it is not a strong signal either way. Precipitation, on the other hand, shows a strong signal toward above normal.