Blizzard Conditions Persist as Historic Snowstorm Spins in the Northern Plains, Upper Midwest

weather.com meteorologists
Published: October 12, 2019

An impressive October snowstorm is bringing dangerous blizzard conditions to the Northern Plains after already blanketing locations such as the Denver metro with their first snow of the season.

The Weather Channel has named this system Winter Storm Aubrey.

Happening Now

Snow from this early season storm is falling across portions of the Dakotas and Minnesota, with lighter snow at times in western Wisconsin and northern Iowa.

Gusty winds and bands of moderate to heavy snowfall are expected in northern and eastern North Dakota. As a result, visibility will be reduced to less than a mile at times in those areas.


Current Radar and Winds

The highest snowfall total from this storm has been reported near Harvey, North Dakota, where 30 inches of snow was measured. Two locations in North Dakota, Langdon and Fessenden have seen 27 inches as of Saturday morning.

Many roads remained closed or travel is not advised in North Dakota as of late Saturday morning.

Blizzard conditions were reported Friday afternoon in several locations in North Dakota, including Devils Lake, Jamestown and Grand Forks, where visibility was reduced to one-quarter mile or less due to heavy, blowing snow and gusty winds.

Friday morning, whiteout conditions occurred near Northwood and Hensel, North Dakota.

Difficult travel was reported in various portions of North Dakota early Friday due to heavy snow and gusty winds. Over a dozen rescues took place between Jamestown and Crystal Springs, including a bus with 42 people on board, Friday morning.

(LATEST NEWS: Snowstorm Closes Interstates in the Northern Plains


Winter Alerts

A blizzard warning has been issued by the National Weather Service for parts of North Dakota, where gusts up to 50 mph will occur into Saturday, resulting in whiteout conditions and large snow drifts. This includes Devils Lake.

The NWS has also posted winter storm warnings and winter weather advisories in portions of the Dakotas and northern western Minnesota due to the threat of heavy snow in these areas.

Forecast Timing

Crippling blizzard conditions are possible into midday Saturday, according to the National Weather Service, in parts of North Dakota due to the combination of very heavy snow and strong winds, which will greatly limit visibility. Wind gusts up to 50 mph are possible in some areas. Travel will be difficult or impossible in areas with blizzard or near-blizzard conditions, the NWS said.

(MORE: Snowstorm Is the Last Thing the Flood-Weary Plains Needs


Wind Forecast

This combination of snow and wind could linger into Saturday night from parts of the Dakotas into Minnesota, northern Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

(MORE: Record-Cold Temperatures Possible in Parts of the West


Saturday's Forecast

How Much Snow

Portions of the Dakotas into northern Minnesota and northwestern Wisconsin will see several inches of additional snowfall.


Additional Snowfall Forecast

Some lighter accumulations of wet snow, mainly on grassy areas, can't be ruled out in southern Minnesota, including the Twin Cities.

Typically, the season's first snow accumulates mainly on grassy areas, vehicle tops and roofs due to warm ground. However, these heavier accumulations will eventually lead to snow-covered roads and treacherous travel in the areas where heavy snow is forecast. There will also be reduced visibilities at times, especially in rural, outlying areas.

(MORE: Here's How Early in Fall It Has Snowed in Your City

The combination of strong winds, wet snow and trees still with leaves may lead to some downed trees or tree limbs and power outages in the Northern Plains.

As the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, North Dakota, noted, this Northern Plains snowstorm will occur exactly one year after a somewhat similar storm dumped over a foot of snow in parts of eastern North Dakota in mid-October 2018.

This snowstorm has the potential to set October snowfall records in parts of the Northern Plains. Jamestown State Hospital in North Dakota reported 14 inches of snow as of Friday, which would break their three-day October snowstorm record of 4.9 inches (Oct. 29-31, 1951)

The following are a few other three-day October snowstorm records that could be in jeopardy:

-Bismarck, North Dakota: 16 inches (Oct. 28-30, 1991)

-Fargo, North Dakota: 8.1 inches (Oct. 29-31, 1951)

-Grand Forks, North Dakota: 10.9 inches (Oct. 24-25, 2001)

-Aberdeen, South Dakota: 16 inches (Oct. 21, 1906)

-Pierre, South Dakota: 7.2 inches (Oct. 30-31, 1943)

Snowstorm Recap So Far

Spokane, Washington, picked up 3.3 inches of snow late Tuesday. That tied as the city's second-snowiest October day in records dating to 1893.

Power outages and broken trees limbs were reported because of the heavy, wet snow in the Spokane area, as well as in adjacent parts of northern Idaho, according to the National Weather Service. More than 30,000 Avista Utilities customers in eastern Washington and northern Idaho were without power Wednesday morning.

Blowing and drifting snow were reported in parts of northern Idaho and western Montana. Whiteout conditions near Leadore, Idaho, Wednesday morning led to several vehicle slide-offs, according to a report received by the National Weather Service.

A 29-mile stretch of Interstate 15 in northeastern Idaho was closed in both directions midday Wednesday due to blowing snow, according to the Idaho Transportation Department.

Two to 4 inches of snow accumulated in the Denver metro area Thursday morning, though the official measurement at Denver International Airport east of the city was 1 inch.

Nearly 100 traffic accidents were reported in the Denver metro Thursday morning as snow made roadways slippery.

Snow also accumulated in Rapid City, South Dakota, on Thursday, making it the third-shortest time between the last 1-inch snowfall of the spring and the first snow of the fall (140 days).

Here a few top snow totals by state as of Saturday morning:

Colorado: 9 inches near Breckenridge; up to 4.5 inches east of Denver

Idaho: 8 inches near Gibbonsville

Minnesota: 10 inches in East Grand Forks; about 4 inches near Grand Marais

Montana: 24 inches at Pony; 18 inches near Helena

Nebraska: 12 inches near Crawford; around 3 inches in Scottsbluff

North Dakota: 30 inches in Harvey' 27 inches in Langdon and Fessenden; 12 inches at Grand Forks Air Force Base

South Dakota: 12.9 inches near Dupree; 8 inches near downtown Rapid City

Washington: About 5 inches near Spokane

Wyoming: 8 inches near Sugar Loaf Campground


Estimated Snowfall Oct. 8-11, 2019

The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.


The Weather Company’s primary journalistic mission is to report on breaking weather news, the environment and the importance of science to our lives. This story does not necessarily represent the position of our parent company, IBM.