Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter storm threatens holiday travel plans for areas south and east of Manitoba

A storm system is forecast to develop over the southern Plain states Tuesday into Wednesday, which will then move northeast and intensify into a strong winter storm Thursday into Christmas Day. Current indications are this storm will track from northern Texas into Wisconsin by Friday, with heavy snow and strong winds likely west of the storm track over portions of South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa and Minnesota. A messy mix of freezing rain and ice pellets is possible along and east of the storm track. Snow from this system may extend into North Dakota and southern MB as well by Christmas Eve, although currently the worst of it is expected to stay southeast of us. Stay tuned on this developing situation especially if you have travel plans south or east of Manitoba for the holidays.

UPDATE: Dec 22: Winter storm watches have been posted for all of North Dakota and Minnesota right to the Canadian border for the potential of heavy snow beginning Wednesday and continuing through Christmas Day. Latest guidance indicates some snow will be moving into southern MB from this system as well Thursday into Friday although the heaviest amounts are still expected south of the border. Stay tuned..


  1. Surprisingly all the models seem to agree on the track of the system. The four models I looked at (GFS, NAM, GEM, and Ensemble) all track the storm along the Missouri-Iowa border, before turning it up towards southern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. However, the models don't agree about precipitation amounts. The GFS and Ensemble are fairly similar with about 2 to 4cm for Winnipeg and 3 to 6cm for areas south of the trans-canada highway. The GEM has virtually no precipitation in Manitoba at all, while the NAM gives most of southern Manitoba about 10cm.

    I've chosen to go with the GFS/Ensemble solution for now, but I wouldn't be at all surprised if the GEM was right in the end.

  2. Does this still resemble the 06/07 blast??

    That one took 4 days to drive thru. the 06/07 Texas (or was it a Kansas) Low Snarled roads from Wpg to Albequerque New Mexico. At Climbee Corners NM 100KM from ALBQ. traffic was still blocked on January 2nd 4 days after the storm hit. Only at noon that day did they allow traffic thru on the interstate.

  3. Take about inconsistent! The NAM went from showing 10cm of snow 6 hours ago to showing 0cm now. This is the level of inaccuracy I was talking about before.

  4. Areas of locally dense fog affecting Winnipeg... hopefully this will insulate us a bit and halt the temperature drop before clouds (associated with baroclinic zone off to our SW) move in. Should be some picturesque frost on the trees tomorrow morning to make it look nice and 'christmasy'.

  5. Winter Storm Watch issued for all of North Dakota!!!

    Will this northward trend continue????

  6. I was forecasting this morning -- issued the watch for ern nd and nw mn. Albeit the far northern areas along the border is much more iffy...but the trend over the past 12 hrs is for a more westward shift of thes sfc low initially out of ern ks the into wrn ia where it sits for a while with an inverted trough up thru ern nd. Lots of moisture to surge north...that said I was thinking 3-5 inches psbl along Canadian border in far ne nd jumping quickly to 6 to 10 at Fargo and then 12 to 18 inches in ern SD. stay tuned...but some snow might sneek up your way in the moisture surge thursday-thursday night before system begins to occlude and weaken late friday. Rob I am sure has much better fcst ideas for Manitoba.

  7. Thanks for the update Dan.. we're watching this one closely. Last night's GLB has brought accumulating snow over southern MB including Winnipeg for Thursday into Friday, with amounts of 5-10 cm possible with snow spreading northward along the inverted trof. NAM shows less over us at this point but 06Z GFS is similar to the GLB bringing snow into southern MB. We'll see what the next runs show .. as Scott has pointed out, they've been inconsistent over our area the last few runs. However, it's looking more likely that we're going to see some snow out of this, but it's looking worse for you guys in ND and MN.. good luck and happy holidays!

  8. Rob. I'll be travelling to SW Manitoba on the 24th, do you recommend that i change my plans, and go tomorrow or is this storm not going to be too bad. Geez, i knew this would happen, a big storm right at the holidays just like at thanksgiving =~.

  9. jewels..

    A this point, it looks like you'll be driving through snow on the 24th.. but it should be in the 5-10 cm range from Winnipeg to SW Manitoba. Winds shouldn't be too strong until later Thursday, so blowing and drifting snow shouldn't be a problem. If you're OK with driving in snow, then you should be OK on the 24th. If not, then tomorrow will be a better travel day. Hopefully we'll have a better idea by the end of today..

  10. We're also on that SW Mb trail and may delay travel Xmas eve to travel xmas morning in daylight .
    We hope the further west and north we go the less snow. We will take the Transcanada Hwy #1 rather than #2 or 3 until we're west of the storm.

    In addition to this BLOG and the forecasts and Dan GF's (NWS Grand Forks) we'll watch the MB Road Conditions. Page link is ..Road Info under the MISC drop down Menu on the ROBS-OBS page or at

    ND Hwy #5 runs west just south of the Manitoba border and conditions there will give you some additional info.
    ND Road Travel Info is available at

  11. Thanks guys.
    Merry christmas everyone!

  12. The frost in my area is amazing!. Theres even some light snow coming down at the moment, I do hope we get more snow even if it's 5 to 10 CM's. Thats good enough for me.

  13. jewels

    The NWS GFKs site I use is ..Click on my Name or

    They have all the hazardous weather and Road warnings and graphic links including the Travel Info and the graphical forecast that you see at the top of this Blog Post (updated version with 3 to 6 ins.(8 to 15cm)in the South central Mb border area...)

  14. Rob
    The NWS Bismark Weather graphic (My NAME)
    is suggesting 10 to 20 cms of snow along the ND border from Mb SK to east of Hwy 10.

    Is this the Turtle Mountain effect and how far North will it extend into MB?

  15. All those sites and Graphics are available by clicking on Robs update Dec22 North Dakota

  16. Here are some numbers for you (storm total):

    NAM: 7mm
    GFS: 18mm
    GEM: 13mm
    Ensemble: 55% chance of more than 5mm accumulation and 20% chance of greater than 10mm accumulation.

    The snow ratio will probably be in the 15-20:1 range. Based on that ratio (15:1), here are some snow totals:

    NAM: 10cm
    GFS: 27cm
    GEM: 20cm
    Ensemble: 10cm (est.)

    These amounts are most applicable to areas around and south of Winnipeg (basically south of the trans-canada). I think that 10 to 20cm is a good estimate right now...and since EC has suggested that 10 to 20cm could fall in Saskatchewan tomorrow, this would make sense.

    I'm still quite skeptical about this whole thing, but in science you have to look at the data, not instincts.

  17. I don't think I've ever seen such a large area of watches and warnings for a single winter storm!!

    Well it looks more and more likely Southern Manitoba will be impacted by this storm!!

    Wind is starting to look like an issue to!!!

  18. I hope SANTA gets me a snow-blower for Christmas :>)

  19. I'm starting to wonder if the forecasters are worried about understating the storm especially since it is probably the biggest travel day of the year and throwing warnings out all over or is this storm really going to be that big. Has the storm actully even developed yet and is it already tracking?

  20. Both Bismark and Grand Forks have increased the Snow totals for the Southern MB Border area to 12 to 22cms
    New Graphics on ROBS Update: North Dakota Link above

  21. Is the snow storm that is going to affect Sask. the same storm that is going to affect the Dakotas????

    Or is it that dreaded inverted trough to blame????

  22. The latest NAM run gives Steinbach 35 to 50cm. Seems way to high for me, but interesting to note that snowfall amounts have been increasing...and the snow is forecast to start in 30 hours.

  23. Rob!

    You were wishing for a Christmas eve snowstorm!

    You may have one!!

    I'll be happy even if we get 5 cm of snow considering a few days ago it looked like we would get nothing more than a dusting!!!

  24. This storm will happen for Winnipeg and surrounding points!

    Looks eerily similar to the end of December 2006!

    Santa texted me tonight and said he wasn't coming to Southern Manitoba...he said visibilities will be less than 2 statute miles...and he doesn't operate under IFR conditions!

  25. Talked with Winnipeg weather and they are going warning for areas along US border. our HPC snow forecast unit has 8 to 12 along the Canadian border and even up to Steinbach and over to Pilot Mound.

  26. Justin!

    So if Santa is not coming to southern Manitoba how then will I get my snow-blower for Christmas????

    Looks like I will need one!!!!

  27. I see Winnipeg did a SPS for the event. A difficult event to get a handle on for the area as this is a quite unsuual system in how the upper low captures the sfc low and then the sfc low moves back west. We had a hard time here how to communicate the idea of a wave of snow tonight-Thursday then the worst Friday. We had watches out and all offices around us went warnings so we had to oblige..otherwise we stick out. Good luck...

  28. Hey Dan..

    Yes, we've held off on the watches or warnings for now as latest GEM guidance gives less snow with this initial shot before the main activity surges north Thursday night through Friday. Even that is a question if the low stalls further south as it's captured by the upper low. As you say, considerable uncertainty still with a lot of factors to consider, especially with the models trying to resolve the interaction of these upper lows and how they will translate at the surface. But I think you've certainly got a better chance of seeing warning amounts south of the border. Good luck!

  29. Just when Snow Clearing Operators enjoy a ray of sunshine, so to speak, there's a chance Wpg won't recieve excessive white stuff. (no EC warnings)
    Perhaps they should head west or south to work.
    Its a sure thing in either direction n'est pas?

  30. Does the trigger for official Watches include special Statements for High Travel Winter Holidays?

    As a daily commuter to Winnipeg from the North it does not take very much snow or wind to produce accidents. Add Holiday drivers not experienced in these conditions and you are guaranteed many.

  31. Looks like I was dead wrong about this system, but this time I was wrong in a good way!

    The GFS is the least aggressive with snowfall amounts, showing about 20cm for south-eastern Manitoba and 10cm for areas around and south of the trans-canada. The NAM is the most aggressive, showing 20 to 30cm for areas south of the trans-canada and east of Brandon. Areas north of the trans-canada would be somewhere between 10 and 25cm depending on how far north you go. Winnipeg is on the edge of the 20 to 30cm zone under the NAM. The GEM is also fairly aggressive, with similar results to the NAM.

    Other key factor is wind speed. Right now it appears that Christmas Day will be an all-out blizzard. Wind speeds of 40 G 60 will whip the snow into huge drifts, making travel impossible. The winds are only forecast to slacken off for Boxing Day, which could mean that most people will be snowed in until the 27th.

  32. Do their actions imply it or is it true that EC assumes Holiday driving Plans and decisions are last day events. Informing the general public of the potential for bad news should not cause concern with their anticipation of being home for the holidays, nor adversely compete with private industry?

    Doe that extends to their return trip as well?

  33. If the GEMs are right, it looks like we dodged the worst of it. We already have enough snow on the ground to have a white Christmas. A few more cms is fine, but who needs 30+ in their driveways - especially on Christmas?

    Merry Christmas Everyone


  34. Speaking of driveways, it is almost 3 months since anyone last used the Snow Blower between the September and November summers.

    I guess they''ll have to drain the gas etc. Dan P At least if yours is new you wont have this problem

  35. Environment Canada for their 11:00 update is now calling for 2-4 cm tonight and 5- 10 cm of snow tomorrow!

    That is pretty much warning criteria right there assuming we get 4 and 10 cm !

  36. Steinbach is forecast to get 12 to 17cm between tonight and tomorrow. That is not including the snow expected on Christmas, which could easily be another 10cm...this means that we are in the 20 to 30cm range right now. I guess EC will be issuing watches or warnings soon.

    The ensemble now calls for a 100% chance of more than 5mm for this storm in southern Manitoba. There is also a 60% chance of more than 10mm, which is quite good considering the ensemble is a very conservative model.

    P.S. NWS Grand Forks has increased snowfall amounts near the border for at least the fourth consecutive time. The NWS is now calling for 8 to 12" along and north of the border, with 12 to 16" around Grand Forks and 16 to 20" around Fargo.

  37. It looks like the NAM has gone completely bonkers with the snow amounts!

    If the NAM is right then we will be spending Christmas digging out!

  38. Right now I like the GEM and GFS solutions. They are both more conservative on precipitation amounts, showing 12mm for Steinbach and 10mm for Winnipeg. This equals snowfall amounts of 15 to 20cm for Winnipeg (depending on the snow ratio), and 15 to 25cm for Steinbach (once again depending on the snow ratio). With the high snow ratios (15-20:1), it doesn't take much water to equal lots of snow.

    The NAM is far to aggressive in my opinion, showing 28mm of water in Winnipeg (equal to 45cm in snow). The HPC graphic shows 20mm for Steinbach and Winnipeg, which is equal to 30cm+ in snow. I think this is a bit on the high side, but more reasonable than the NAM.

    The NAM and GFS have basically stayed the same for the last 18 hours. The NAM has decent amounts if you factor them using a 10:1 ratio and the GFS has good amounts under a 15-20:1 ratio as I mentioned. The GEM on the other hand, has been all over the map. Yesterday it was showing about 20cm for southern Manitoba, then yesterday evening it was showing 30cm+, now today it is back to 15 to 25cm. I don't like that level of inconsistency. EC considering watches for the afternoon update?

  39. Snow is starting to break out across Southern Manitoba!!!

    Let the snowstorm begin!!!

  40. That stupid weather network downgraded all the snow accumulations for manitoba. There only excpeting less then 10 CM for winnipeg ond only 5 for brandon. There expecting all of it to mainly hit the southeastern corner of the province and into north western ontario .

  41. EC too. Only 5-10 cm followed by flurries on the weekend for Winnipeg. Looks like we overestimated this storm for Manitoba a little.
    Well on the bright side, still the biggest snowstorm in 2 months!

  42. Just because EC dropped amounts doesn't mean we won't get more...I think 10-15cm for sure for Winnipeg...there are other models out there...each with differing'll be neat to see which one pans out! It's best to compare the real weather systems map with the current model initial analysis to see if it was initialized properly.

    Inverted Troughs are notorious for channeling moisture Northward in our area. If the surface trough phases right with the Big Mother Low down South, then watch out! We may get more then a foot of snow!

    I'll be conservative at this time with amounts...10-15cm...but not too conservative like EC...<10cm...

    Here's to hoping for a significant snow storm...we're overdue!!!

  43. Wow.. after a check of some of the models.. I can certainly understand why all the forecasters are very edgy about this one.

    There are just too many areas where this complex forecast could bust. The problem is we now have an upper disturbance over Saskatchewan that will drop south an phase with the main system coming up from the south. As this happens... its surface reflection, ie the inverted trough, will weaken and lose definition as it drifts east. So that begs the question .. will there be enough forcing to sustain precip over RRV? Without seeing omega fields and proper isentropic analysis etc its very difficult to say.

    Next question involves main low as it wraps up and moves out into the upper midwest.. just how far NW will the deformation zone reach?... again very iffy. Very interesting temperature fields on the NAM showing back door warming on Friday over us (850 hPa temps of -4 C and higher still in NW Ontario), while the cold core which is over Northern BC and Central Alberta (temps at YEG tanking once again tonite) is driven down thru Montana and towards the twin cities area... bizarre.

    We could conceivable only end up with yet another dusting (particularly if the inverted trough dries up and the main system tracks a bit further SE)... its been said before, but its times like these when we really would see the benefits of a weather office specific to Manitoba with access to better diagnostic packages etc.

  44. I also agree that Winnipeg will get more than 10cm. The least snowfall scenario comes from the GEM, which gives Winnipeg 15cm. The most snow scenario gives Winnipeg 30cm+ (NAM). I think the GFS has been best so predicts about 20cm for Winnipeg.

    Part of the reason that other parts of southern Manitoba may have been left out of the warning is the time requirement. Since this system will be slow-moving that 20cm will fall over several days. The snowfall warning states that 10cm must fall within 12 hours or 15cm must fall within 24 hours. However, given the timing of this event during the holidays, it would probably appropriate to wave that condition this time...the same way the NWS did down in Grand Forks.

    And for the record, I think that 20-30cm should be expected in south-eastern Manitoba. The NWS's 25 to 30cm zone goes right up against the border and judging from the comments this morning, that 25 to 30cm zone extends well north of the border as well.

  45. Latest 00z NAM run has backed off a bit...I find this run is strenghtening the storm too quickly which tightens up the Low and resulting deformation zone. I believe the Low won't be as tightly wound and intense/deep as the model suggests. I believe the precip shield will expand into the interlake region through Christmas Day giving us a significant snowstorm.

    10-15cm looks solid for the Winnipeg area...I'm holding to that...I will reassess tomorrow!

  46. Precipitation associated with inverted trough and disorganized lead disturbance over Mississippi valley having a tough time working into our region...

    I suspect precip will inch its way northeast and reach Winnipeg by 6 AM or so as suggested by RUC which seems to have decent handle on current precip. From that point I have feeling models like NAM and GFS are overdoing QPF for tomorrow given that energy starts to coalesce around main southern low.. I would expect light snow to tapper to flurries... we'll see.

    Attention then turns to what the models depict as an absolutely massive low forming as northern stream disturbance (now over western prairies) becomes captured and rotates around southern energy (have any of the meteorologists seen anything like this before?). Deformation zone will start to back into SE Manitoba by midday Friday. How far NW it can advance before system fills in and weakens is the key question. The latest GFS I saw shows the bulk of precip staying over SE Manitoba with not much for Winnipeg.

  47. Latest GEM and GLB continue to maintain heaviest snow south of the border as main storm system gets upto Iowa then stalls as it gets captured by upper low. Areas near the border have the best chance of seeing 15-25 cm Thursday through Friday with perhaps 10-15 cm in Winnipeg. Note that northerly winds will be increasing Friday as well so there could be blowing and drifting problems through the RRV, especially down towards Emerson. NAM is more aggressive with the wind and snow over much of southern MB Friday with near blizzard conditions possible.. but I'm not sold on that solution yet.

  48. I've seen very little change in the NAM and GFS over the last 30 hours. They show about 15 to 20cm storm total for Winnipeg and 20 to 30cm total for can extrapolate from the NWS Weather story to achieve similar results.

    Like others, I still have a hard time handling these totals, but given the fact that this will be a multi-day event, 20cm for Winnipeg isn't unreasonable...nor is 30cm for Steinbach.

  49. Scott, (this a.m.) and Rob thanks for the wind reminder. It appears better to drive xmas eve instead of xmas day. Until then, one eye on the updates and the other on the wind ..35km at Minot and 28km at Estevan currently.

    Both of the OBS Current Condition interactive maps "Wunder" and "Weatherbug" are excellent for tracking live Temp, Wind and snow conditions in the area.

  50. The GFS totals include the snowfall that is projected to fall tomorrow... for the main low on Friday and Saturday, GFS prints out meager QPF for Winnipeg.

    Precipitation finally surging north into the Winnipeg area... the EC forecast of 2 to 4 cm appears reasonable. Tomorrow during the day is a question mark as forcing begins to weaken and focus south but more lite snow is possible. I suspect we will get yet another shot of lite snow starting Friday as we get brushed by the deformation zone. So eventually 10 to 15 cm is certainly within the realm of possibility.

  51. Latest HPC snowfall graphics sent to NWS Offices indicate 6 inches to Winnipeg....roughly 8 inches from Steinbach to Morris...then about 12 inches along the around 15 in Grand Forks and Fargo through Saturday morning.

    Models have been very consistent gotta tell you. Acutal qpf from models usually are a bit high...and thus sometimes HPC uses model qpf a bit too much and often their snow graphic is a bit high as well. but subtracting 2 or 3 off of it would give Winnipeg 3 or 4 10 inches or so along the Border then a foot in GF. Sorry for the inches folks.

    Through 06z...Fargo has had 2.5 inches and Grand Forks just shy of 2 inches.

  52. Interesting feature.. localized, enhanced snow band from Steinbach to Winnipeg has formed. However still not even snowing in an arc from Morden, Portage, rounding Gimli to Lac du Bonnet. This illustrates the difficulty of pin pointing snow totals from this system... *sigh*

  53. Well were off to a good start...
    2 cm of snow on the ground!

    And the radar is starting to fill in nicely...

  54. 5.5 inches in Fargo as of 4 am