UPDATE: The National Weather Service issued an update on the storm Friday morning, Jan. 17, with these key points:
- A blizzard warning has been issued for tonight through Saturday for the Red River Valley and west.
- Blowing snow is ongoing through this evening, and localized whiteout conditions cannot be ruled out through this evening mainly in open country.
- Widespread snow accumulations by this afternoon into Saturday.
- Travel will be very difficult to impossible, especially this evening through Saturday afternoon.
- Improvement expected Saturday evening.
FARGO — Eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota will see wind gusts exceeding 40 mph in a snowstorm that will create whiteout conditions and likely will make travel impossible at times, the National Weather Service warns.
The weather service predicts the snowstorm will hit the Fargo-Moorhead metro area around noon on Friday as the storm spreads northward, reaching the Grand Forks area around 3 p.m. and the Devils Lake-Langdon area around 6 p.m.
The worst impacts from the storm will be Friday night into Saturday, and the storm is expected to wind down Saturday afternoon or evening.
Fargo-Moorhead is within an area the weather service predicts could get 4 to 6 inches of snow. Heavier amounts will fall east and south of the Red River Valley.
John Wheeler, WDAY chief meteorologist, expects Fargo-Moorhead will receive about 3 or 4 inches, and Grand Forks will get about 1 or 2 inches.
Regardless of snow totals, the gusting winds and fresh snow will cause blowing and drifting snow, creating sporadic whiteout conditions, especially during the peak intensity of the storm, Friday night into Saturday.
People should prepare for possible blizzard conditions, the weather service advised.
“Travel may be impossible at times,” said meteorologist Tommy Grafenauer. Motorists should consider cancelling unnecessary travel, he said.
“Confidence is fairly high there will be widespread whiteout conditions along and west of the Red River Valley,” Grafenauer said.
In Fargo, wind gusts are expected to reach 41 mph Friday and 45 mph Friday night into Saturday, according to the weather service. Wind gusts will be even higher to the west, in places including Valley City and Jamestown, with 50 mph gusts possible, but snow amounts will be less there, Wheeler said.
Wheeler said he had a "fairly grave concern" that a lull in the storm in the Friday-Saturday overnight and the wee hours of Saturday could fool some people, possibly leaving them stranded in the countryside.
"I have a big concern that people are going to think the storm is over," he said. "But it's not."
The wind will flare up again, abruptly, with howling gusts and whiteouts likely.
"There'll be considerable blowing and drifting," Wheeler said. "If someone is caught in the calm, they could be stranded."
“Wind chills are a concern,” Grafenauer said, dropping to 25 below to 35 below zero during the storm’s peak.
Fargo-Moorhead residents will wake up Friday to very blustery weather, with blowing snow, Wheeler said. "It's really not a heavy snowstorm," he said. "It's snow and wind."
The moisture content of the snow will be similar to the snowfall earlier this week, which dropped 3 inches in Fargo.
“You’re not going to be shoveling water out there,” Grafenauer said. “It will be more toward the fluffy side.”
Weather service forecasters expect to issue a winter weather advisory for blowing snow conditions in the southern Red River Valley. They likely will issue a winter storm warning east of the valley for blowing snow.