Weather Whys: Where is Blizzard Alley?

Weather Whys

Blizzards affect an average of 26 million people annually in our country. Each Winter, North Dakota has over a 50 percent chance of being impacted by one.

You’ve more than likely heard of “Tornado Alley” but you may not have of Blizzard Alley because It’s not as commonly referred to. We happen to be right in the middle of it.
 

To be considered a blizzard, there has to be wind speeds or gusts of 35 mph or greater and reduced visibility of a quarter of a mile or less with either falling snow or blowing snow. 
These conditions have to last for 3 hours or more. 


Two Geographers named Schwartz and Schidlin analyzed over 40 years worth of data and they found that the majority of the United States has been impacted by a blizzard. But there was a particularly high number of blizzards in, you guess it, North Dakota. 


So when analyzing how often blizzards happen, the Upper Plains and parts of the Midwest stood out from the rest of the country. 

North Dakota isn’t just in Blizzard Alley but it’s also in a more defined area known as the blizzard zone. Which means our chances are even higher of seeing a blizzard. 
The highest chance is in the month of January. 


It doesn’t mean we couldn’t have a year where we have more in February or March… it just means that after analyzing over four decades of blizzards… more have happened in January. 

This study was broken down by not just states but also by counties. 

The highest number of blizzards reported for a single county was Trail county. In a span of 41 years, this small area between Grand Forks and Fargo had the highest number at 74 blizzards. 

Which averages out at roughly two blizzards a year. – not as high as you think! I’ve been analyzing the date and 
 

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