Blizzard Prone Areas Defined on One Map - KMSP-TV

Blizzard Prone Areas Defined on One Map

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Meteorologist Cody Matz Meteorologist Cody Matz

Since some of us have the potential for another blizzard this season, this topic is still appropriate. Clearly, it is no secret that Minnesota is one of the harshest areas to live in the winter in the United States. Feet of snow, persistent subzero temperatures, and high winds greet us just about every day from December to March. But just how prone to blizzards are we?? Well first, let's define what the National Weather Service describes as a blizzard. It's not just a little wind, some blowing snow, and poor visibility… a blizzard is defined as the most treacherous conditions in all of winter… this means that you need to have sustained winds of at least 30 mph AND visibility under a quarter mile for AT LEAST 3 straight hours. These would be considered whiteout conditions. It will also mean, wind chills are dreadfully low. Even if temperatures are at freezing, with 30 mph sustained winds, the wind chill would be all of 17 degrees. But in a lot of cases, with blizzards in the Upper Midwest, temperatures are in the teens, single digits, or even below zero, which puts frostbite formation in the dangerous category of 10 minutes or less. Yikes! So where are these whiteouts of nature most prevalent? It's very easy to see by the map below…

This map was made by Iowa State and shows the number of blizzard warnings issued from 2005 through this season. The Dakotas, and more specifically, the I-29 corridor of the eastern Dakotas and far western Minnesota take the cake with 20 to 30 separate blizzard warnings issued in the last 10 years. Notice the metro is very rarely issued warnings with just 1 for the main counties of Anoka and Hennepin, but 2, 3, or 4, issued for the metros far south and west counties… 2 of those were this year alone. So why the big contrast between eastern and western MN?? Simply stated…. trees. Western and southern Minnesota is mostly farmland, wide-open space that leads to stronger winds and more blowing snow. The eastern half of the state is more forested, and in the metros case, more populated, which also has more wind blocks like buildings. To expand our view… there are a couple other prone areas of the U.S. including northern and central Iowa, northeast Colorado and northwest Kansas, the northern UP of Michigan, and then the coast line of the Northeast U.S. mostly from Long Island to Maine.

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