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Late-Week Snowmaker to Bring Strong Winds, Colder Temperatures to Plains, Midwest, Great Lakes

Published in 13 January, 2021

At a Glance

  • Far-above-average temperatures are gripping parts of the Plains and Midwest right now.

  • A cold front will bring snowfall, gusty winds and somewhat colder temperatures to these areas.

  • The snow might contribute to travel delays Thursday into Friday.

A January reality check is headed for portions of the Plains, Midwest and Great Lakes later this week as a cold front brings blustery conditions and snowfall to areas currently experiencing far-above-average temperatures.

Arctic cold commonly grips the north-central United States this time of year, but so far in January, those shivering temperatures have been nonexistent. That includes through the middle portion of this week with high temperatures so mild, they’ll threaten daily record highs in parts of the Dakotas on Wednesday.

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(The orange and red contour shows how much warmer than average high temperatures are forecast to be on Wednesday.)

Temperatures will fall back closer to average in the Plains and Midwest late this week after a front passes through, but it still won’t be terribly cold by January standards. That front will also be accompanied by the return of snowfall and gusty winds in many areas.

Here’s the latest timing and how much snow to expect.

Forecast Timing

Thursday

The front will charge into the upper Midwest Wednesday night into Thursday with snow or rain changing to snow spreading from the northern Plains into the upper Mississippi Valley and western Great Lakes. This changeover from rain to snow will advance eastward toward the rest of Lower Michigan, northern Indiana and Ohio overnight.

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Thursday’s Forecast

Strong northwesterly winds will also howl through the Plains from the Dakotas to parts of Oklahoma and Texas.

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Where gusty winds overlap with snowfall in open areas of the Northern Plains, there could be reduced visibility and poor travel conditions into Thursday night.

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A widespread area from the Northern Plains into the upper and mid-Mississippi valleys and Great Lakes could see periods of snow during the day on Friday. Gusty winds will also continue in much of the Plains as well as parts of the Midwest.

Widespread, heavy snowfall totals are not expected. However, even light snowfall can impact travel, especially where stronger wind gusts combined with the snow produce lower visibility in open areas of the Plains. That could include the eastern Dakotas and western Minnesota into parts of Iowa.

By Friday night, rain changing to snow will push eastward into the interior Northeast and Appalachians, from northern Maine southward into West Virginia. The Interstate 95 corridor from Boston to Washington D.C. will receive rain from this system.

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Friday’s Forecast

Saturday

The weekend will begin with lingering snow showers and lake-effect snow in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley.

Rain is expected along the immediate Northeast coast, with snow possible from upstate New York into northern Maine.

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Saturday’s Forecast

How Much Snow?

Snowfall totals from this system won’t be heavy in most areas.

A broad area from the eastern Dakotas into Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Michigan and northern and central parts of Illinois and Indiana could see at least light accumulations.

Some of the largest snowfall totals in this region might pile up from parts of Minnesota into the northern Great Lakes. But that will depend on where any bands of prolonged snowfall set up for a period of time Thursday into Friday.

Farther east, generally light snowfall totals are forecast from the Appalachians into northern New England, with the exception of heavier totals over the Adirondack, Green and White mountains.

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