Blizzard warnings expanded for hazardous blowing snow Thursday

Winds will whip up to 45 mph in western and southern Minnesota.
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UPDATE 4:45 P.M. 

The National Weather Service has expanded blizzard warnings into southwest and south-central Minnesota in anticipation of gusty winds producing significant blowing and drifting snow overnight tonight and much of the day Thursday. 

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Meteorologists in the Twin Cities office of the NWS called MnDOT offices across the state and were informed that there is plenty of powdery snow in southern Minnesota that strong northwest winds will likely whip around with ease, reducing visibilities and causing possible whiteout conditions. 

"Expect the worst conditions to begin late tonight across western Minnesota and during the overnight hours across southern Minnesota, with blizzard conditions expected to continue through mid-morning," the NWS forecast discussion says

"Winds decrease somewhat into the afternoon, but will still be plenty high enough for visibility concerns to continue, though of lesser impact."

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The next legitimate chance of accumulating snow in Minnesota doesn't arrive till Sunday-Monday, but strong northwest winds will create hazardous travel conditions in western and southern Minnesota overnight through Thursday. 

With that, blizzard warnings, winter storm watches and winter weather advisories have been issued for many of those locations.

Again, the snow that'll be blowing around will be from past snowfalls that is already on the ground. Any snow that falls Thursday will be very light or flurries, but that won't help with the blowing snow concerns. 

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"An arctic front surging southward tonight will bring strong northwest winds and result in areas of blowing snow. The worst conditions are expected over western Minnesota," says the National Weather Service. 

A blizzard warning means blowing snow and drifting is imminent. The winter storm watch mean conditions could become favorable for blowing and drifting snow. Here's how the NWS words it

"A Blizzard Warning has been issued for western Minnesota from Wednesday night through Thursday morning as very dangerous travel conditions are expected. Strong northwest winds with gusts of 35 to 45 mph will develop behind an arctic front late Wednesday evening. Due to a deep snowpack, widespread blowing snow with whiteout conditions appear likely across western Minnesota.

In central and southern Minnesota the winds will be a bit lighter, and there is some question about the condition of the snowpack. A Winter Storm Watch remains in effect for blowing and drifting snow Wednesday night through Thursday morning."

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Winds die down Thursday night but the cold air sticks around and Friday morning could be extremely cold, with lows 10-20 below zero. Temps that cold won't require much wind to make it feel like its 30-40 below zero outside. 

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The big question for the weekend is whether a clipper system will bring any accumulating snow to the Twin Cities. The NWS is confident that accumulating snow will fall somewhere in Minnesota, but it all depends on the storm's track. 

Currently, models are in pretty good agreement that the snow will dart from northwest to southeast through the center of the state. It's still too far out to trust, but here's a view of the simulated future radar for Sunday afternoon through Monday. 

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