Snow is likely to begin the new year
RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - We have been talking about a potential storm since early this week. There was a lot of uncertainty between models through Wednesday and Thursday, however, trends are starting to become similar, which is helping increase confidence in the storm track and snowfall totals.
The American weather model (GFS) had trouble much of the week on where the storm track was going to be. There are a few upper level dynamics that this model in particular struggles with, which favored a northern bias of the storm track, giving much of the area snowfall. However, the European weather model (EURO) had a much better grasp on this flaw. The EURO kept the storm track farther south and east, bringing less impacts to KOTA Territory. The GFS picked up on its error Thursday night and continues to trend along with the EURO and other weather models, keeping the storm track farther south and east.
At this time, a Winter Storm Watch is in place for Fall River, Oglala Lakota, Jackson and Bennett Counties from midnight Sunday night/Monday morning through 11 a.m. Tuesday. This is the area where the heaviest snow is expected to fall for our region. Higher snow totals are expected in Central Nebraska and over toward Sioux Falls and northwest Iowa.
Sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning, upgrades to the watch will be likely. I’d expect Winter Storm Warnings to be issued for those locations, with Winter Weather Advisories for areas just to the north, including Rapid City.
Here is a look at forecast snow totals. Now, these numbers are subject to change with any shifting of the storm track, but this is an early idea of what to expect for those who might have travel plans this weekend and want to get an idea of what you might be facing. Road conditions Sunday, Monday and even Tuesday will make driving difficult, so if you plan on leaving the Black Hills region before the storm arrives, the drive home might be a little treacherous.
The highest snow totals will be around locations near the Nebraska state line. Snow totals will drop the farther north you go. For Rapid City, 2″-5″ of snow is a safe bet at the moment, but a slight shift north of the storm system could enhance easterly winds and provide upslope flow in town. If this happens, snow totals might have to be adjusted a bit higher to accommodate the shift. Upslope flow looks likely for the northern Black Hills, which is why they have a bit higher forecast compared to surrounding areas.
Thankfully, this storm does not look to be as severe as the previous two storms. Snow totals are no where near as high as the blizzard a few weeks ago, the wind is not as strong as the two blizzards we just had and thankfully the coldest temperatures we will have are highs in the 20s early next week.
If you do plan on traveling this weekend to celebrate the New Year elsewhere, pay close attention to road conditions. There shouldn’t be many problems on Saturday, but that’s a different story for Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. The heaviest snow is expected to fall between Rapid City and Denver along a line east-northeast to Sioux Falls, Omaha and Minneapolis. This will impact road conditions and even air travel. Be sure to plan accordingly and expect delays.
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