Travel will be nearly impossible due to winter storm
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Christmas travel in southwest Minnesota and northwest Iowa will be severely impacted by a significant winter storm, the National Weather Service warned Thursday.
"This is a life-threatening system and any travel from tonight through Saturday will be treacherous, if not nearly impossible in many areas," the National Weather Service stated.
After a relative lull today, the storm will begin in earnest tonight, with surface low pressure tracking northward up the Mississippi Valley. The low will then meander around Iowa Friday before moving slightly eastward on Saturday. North to northwest winds will steadily increase today, topping out on Christmas Day averaging 25 to 40 miles per hour.
Widespread snow accumulations of more than a foot will occur by Saturday afternoon. Coupled with the wind, 5 to 10 foot drifts may occur in rural areas.
Additionally, a layer of ice beneath the fresh bed of snow will create slippery conditions, particularly on untreated surfaces.
The National Weather Service encouraged people to watch for future statements, which may upgrade the alert to include blizzard conditions.
A winter storm warning remains in effect until noon Saturday.
A relative quiet time will be in store today, with periods of light snow giving minor snow accumulations. There will even be a wintry mix of light freezing drizzle and sleet possible this morning, along and east of Interstate 29. As the bulk of the storm organizes, widespread snow and blowing snow will begin tonight, lasting through Saturday. The snowfall will be heavy at times.
Storm totals of 12 to 18 inches of snow will be common by Saturday. 5 to 10 foot drifts are possible in rural areas.
Wind and Visibility
North to northwest winds will steadily increase today, topping out on Christmas Day and Friday night at 25 to 40 miles per hour. This will create visibilities of zero at times in rural areas tonight through Saturday morning.
A winter storm warning for heavy snow means severe winter weather conditions are expected or occurring. Significant amounts of snow are forecast that will make travel dangerous if not impossible at times.
Only travel in an emergency. The National Weather Service advised people determined to travel to bring an extra flashlight, food and water along in the vehicle in case of an emergency.