WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The National Weather Service (NWS) reports more than a foot of fresh snow has fallen in an area stretching from the mountains of Arizona to the Black Hills of South Dakota. Over the past 24 hours a slow-moving low pressure system has brought winter-like conditions into the Great Plains. Bismarck, North Dakota, saw up to 10-inches of snow and wind gusts near 40 mph, which produced blowing and drifting snow, reducing visibility to zero at times.
NWS forecasters have issued a series of winter storm watches and snow advisories for eastern Colorado, Wyoming into the western Dakotas, Nebraska and Kansas this morning. Snow accumulations up to five inches are possible for many of the affected areas. Most of these watches will be in effect until Sunday. Winds associated with the low-pressure system may cause blizzard-like conditions across the western Plains today into tomorrow.
As the front moves east through the Plains NWS forecasters indicate there is a slight possibility for severe weather from central Texas into Oklahoma, Missouri and southern Iowa. The main threat may be from damaging winds and hail.
A combination of wind and freezing rain swept across the Red River Valley of North Dakota yesterday, downing power lines. A local utility company spokesman said about 3,500 customers in the Grand Forks area were without power yesterday, but service should be fully restored by today.
The Red River at Grand Forks, ND, was expected to crest around 44.5 to 45.5 feet today, but the additional precipitation could drive the river higher early next week. The river is forecast to crest below the city's protective dikes, which stand at 50 to 52 feet. Most of the ice on the river has melted alleviating the threat of ice jams adding to the flooding.
City maintenance crews at East Grand Forks, Minn., were cleaning the city's storm drain system yesterday in anticipation of increased runoff. City officials said the action was a precaution, but they did not expect significant flooding.
FEMA's regional office in Denver (Region VIII) is monitoring the situation in North Dakota and remains in contact with the state's emergency management officials.