And the cold air will strengthen as the next week progresses. An area of atypically intense high pressure over Alaska and southeastern Canada is poised to dislodge much of the available cold from northern latitudes to the lower 48.
Snow is not uncommon on the Northern Plains during November, but the amount that fell with this storm, which is ushering in the blast of frigid air across the country, was extraordinary.
Seventeen inches accumulated in Bismarck, ND, on Thursday, the city’s second snowiest day on record and just 0.3 inches off first place. Weather.com Meteorologist Jonathan Erdman tweeted that more than twice as much snow fell from that single storm as Bismarck sees on an average November: 8 inches.
Multiple reports of around 2 feet of snow came in from central North Dakota, not far from Bismarck. These include 24 inches near Mandan, 22 inches at Steele, and 19 inches near Lincoln. Winds gusted to 40 to 50 mph to create drifts of 3 to 5 feet in places.
A long strip of at least 8 to 12 inches stretched from near Yellowstone National Park through much of eastern Montana, North Dakota, and northern Minnesota. At least several inches fell as far south as central Wyoming and southwestern South Dakota.
Roads in and around Bismarck remained largely closed on Friday morningbut conditions were slowly improving across the state.
On Friday morning, a powerful cold front extended from near the low pressure that caused the blizzard near Lake Superior to the Texas-Mexico border. This cold front will continue to slide east today, eventually merging with the remnants of Hurricane Nicole and clearing the East Coast early this weekend.
Remnants of Nicole will bring heavy rain and tornado threat to the eastern US.
Given the very warm conditions ahead of the front, including some all-time highs, much of the Plains and Midwest have seen a temperature change of up to 50 degrees in 24 hours.
Actual temperatures Friday morning ranged from -4 in Great Falls, Mont., to 28 in Kansas City, Mo. Single digits and teens dominated the snowy northern Plains with 20s and 30s stretching from Texas Panhandle to Milwaukee. Wind chills were 10 to 15 degrees below air temperature, with most of the northern plains feeling like zero or below.
Temperatures behind the front are expected to be 10 to 20 degrees below normal, except for 20 to 30 or more below normal in Montana and the Dakotas. Friday’s highs range from the teens near the Canadian border to the 20s and 30s in much of the Midwest. Lows Saturday morning are forecast to dip below freezing across much of the northern Plains, in the low singles as far south as the Nebraska-Kansas border and 40 degrees to the Gulf Coast.
While the cold front clears the East Coast early Saturday, it will take some time for cold air to reach the Appalachians. By Monday, the entire Lower 48, except for a few small pockets, is likely dealing with below-normal temperatures.
Cold pattern set to recharge
As the first cold snap takes control of the country and then subsides somewhat, an expanding high pressure zone will develop and become unusually strong in western North America next week. This is a recipe for blasting air directly from the North Pole into Canada and much of the contiguous United States.
Prepare to hear that Alaska is hotter than anywhere else as the cold air moves south. Also be prepared for a slap in the face like in the dead of winter from the freezing air.
By the middle to late next week, frigid conditions will plunge across the plains. Readings of 30 to 40 degrees below normal are possible again by Friday over the northern Rocky Mountains and Plains. While the air mass will likely moderate somewhat as it moves east, temperatures 10 to 20 degrees below normal will linger heading into next weekend across the central and eastern United States. .
It’s too far away to provide any real detail, but with cold air and a relatively active storm track, there may be some chance of winter weather.
The first such opportunity may come as early as the middle of next week, and it could bring a chance of snow to the Midwest and Ohio Valley. The Northeast, likely north of Washington, will also need to watch this potential winter weather generator as it progresses.
There are some indications that the cold pattern will ease in about 10 days to two weeks, allowing for a thaw around Thanksgiving, but confidence is low on projections that far out.