Although it’s mid-April and Spring is here, that doesn’t stop North Dakota snow.
In fact, as of publishing time, we’re expecting 19-31 inches of snow in Minot and 16-27 inches of snow in Bismarck from Tuesday to Thursday.
We know you may have questions, and while Chief Meteorologist Tom Schrader’s live Facebook videos are always helpful, he’s not able to answer every question he’s asked. So we compiled a list of frequently asked questions and their answers to help.
1. Why is predicting the exact amount of snow challenging?
There are many variables that come into play when predicting snow.
- TV stations broadcast over a large area. KX News, specifically, broadcasts from the roughly Turtle Mountains through Rugby, Harvey, down to around Ashley and into eastern Montana. You may hear meteorologists talk about expecting six inches of snow and think it’s at your specific house, but it may be for someone else across western North Dakota.
- Quite often, meteorologists see data that shows the possibility of a storm one week from now. What meteorologists do is get details for a storm that hasn’t even developed yet or watch a storm that could move our way. For example, if a meteorologist is tracking a storm in the Gulf of Alaska, over 1,000 miles away, and if the storm track is even one degree different than what they see a week out, that storm could miss us. This situation happens many times over the winter.
- Essentially, there may be parts of a storm that has more lift than other areas, and this could even happen from one part of town to another. It’s common to have one part of a town like Bismarck or Minot get five inches of snow while another part gets more or less. For example, let’s say one side of your town gets five inches of snow and the other gets less. This could mean you might say the forecast was wrong because you didn’t get the forecasted amount at your home while just a few blocks away an area did get the forecasted amount. Even a change of a few miles could make a big difference in snow totals at any one location.
2. How do the roads look?
The North Dakota Department of Transportation created a tool to show the most recent road conditions to answer this constantly-changing question.
Simply head to the KX Storm Team app, scroll to the bottom of the home screen and click on the graphic titled “NDDOT Travel Information Map”.
Here, you’ll be able to view the most up-to-date road conditions, weather cameras, weather radar and more.
3. What’s the difference between a watch, warning and advisory?
A watch is issued when the risk of hazardous weather has significantly increased, but its occurrence, location or timing isn’t certain. A watch is intended to provide enough time for people to set a plan, essentially meaning hazardous weather is possible so be prepared.
A warning is issued when hazardous weather is imminent or likely, according to the National Weather Service. A warning means weather conditions pose a threat to life or property, and people in the path of the storm need to take protective action.
An advisory is issued when hazardous weather is occurring, imminent or likely. It’s used to less serious conditions than a warning but will cause significant inconvenience and if caution isn’t taken, could lead to threatened life or property.
4. How many inches of snow equals an inch of rain?
Many of us have heard that roughly 10 inches of snow equals one inch of rain, and in some cases, that’s correct. However, that could also be incorrect because of the temperature.
The first thing to remember is that warm air can hold more moisture than cold air. Then, if meteorologists think there’s enough moisture in the air that if the snow fell as rain, it would equal one inch. If the temperature in the whole column of air was below freezing and nothing melted on the way down, meteorologists might forecast 10 inches of snow. That would then be a 10:1 ratio.
But it can get tricky.
If meteorologists think there’s the same amount of moisture to work with in the example above, but the temperature was 5 degrees, the cold air would squeeze out more moisture from the clouds and we could end up with 18 inches of snow. That would be an 18:1 ratio.
The amount of moisture available never changed but we would get very different snow amounts.
The biggest takeaway is the amount of snow that falls is impacted greatly by the temperature. The extreme cold can give us huge amounts of snow but it’ll be a dry snow with little moisture, whereas a “warmer” spring storm will have snow with a much higher moisture content.
5. What should be in my car emergency kit?
As for your winter car emergency kit, we recommend putting the below items in a bag for easy access in the chance you may need help:
- Ice scraper
- Portable shovel
- Reflective safety vest
- First-aid kit
- Cell phone charger
- Candles and matches
- Hand warmers
- Non-perishable food (like granola bars, nuts, soup, dried fruit)
6. What’s the temperature with the wind chill?
The National Weather Service created the chart below to determine the “feels like” temperature when factoring in the wind chill.
For example, if the temperature is 30 degrees but winds are at 20 mph, the “feels like” temperature would be 17 degrees.