Answers to your snow FAQs
Although it’s mid-April and spring is here, that doesn’t stop North Dakota from snowing.
In fact, at press time, we are expecting 19 to 31 inches of snow in Minot and 16 to 27 inches of snow in Bismarck from Tuesday through Thursday.
We know you may have questions, and while Chief Meteorologist Tom Schrader’s Facebook Live videos are always helpful, he’s not in a position to answer all the questions he’s asked. We have therefore compiled a list of frequently asked questions and their answers to help you.
1. Why is it difficult to predict the exact amount of snow?
Many variables come into play when forecasting snow.
- Television stations broadcast over a wide area. KX News, in particular, broadcasts from the Turtle Mountains roughly to Rugby, Harvey, to around Ashley and eastern Montana. You may hear meteorologists talking about expecting six inches of snow and thinking it’s your home, but it may be for someone else in western North Dakota.
- Quite often meteorologists see data that shows the possibility of a storm within a week. What meteorologists do is get details of a storm that hasn’t even developed yet or observe a storm that may be moving towards us. For example, if a meteorologist is tracking a storm in the Gulf of Alaska more than 1,000 miles away, and the storm’s track is even one degree different from what he sees a week later, we could miss this storm. This situation occurs several times during the winter.
- Essentially, there can be parts of a storm that have more lift than other areas, and it can even happen from one part of the city to another. It is common for one part of a town like Bismarck or Minot to get five inches of snow while another part gets more or less. For example, suppose one side of your city receives five inches of snow and the other receives less. This could mean that you could say the prediction was wrong because you didn’t get the predicted amount at home when a few blocks away from an area you got the predicted amount. Even a change of a few miles could make a big difference in snow totals at any location.
2. What are the roads like?
The North Dakota Department of Transportation has created a tool to show the most recent road conditions to answer this ever-changing question.
Simply head to the KX Storm Team app, scroll to the bottom of the home screen and click on the graphic labeled “NDDOT Travel Information Map”.
Here you will be able to see the latest road conditions, weather cameras, weather radars and more.
3. What is the difference between a watch, a warning and an advisory?
A watch is issued when the risk of hazardous weather has increased significantly, but its occurrence, location or time is not certain. A watch is meant to give people enough time to make a plan, which basically means dangerous weather conditions are possible, so be prepared.
A warning is issued when hazardous weather conditions are imminent or likely, according to the National Weather Service. A warning means that the weather poses a threat to life or property, and people in the storm’s path should take protective action.
An advisory is issued when hazardous weather conditions occur, imminent or probable. It is used for less serious conditions than a warning, but will cause significant inconvenience and, if you are not careful, could result in a threat to life or property.
4. How many inches of snow equals one inch of rain?
Many of us have heard that about 10 inches of snow equals one inch of rain, and in some cases that’s correct. However, this could also be incorrect due to temperature.
The first thing to remember is that warm air can hold more moisture than cold air. Then, if meteorologists think there is enough moisture in the air that if snow fell as rain, that would equal one inch. If the temperature throughout the air column was below zero and nothing melted on the way down, meteorologists could predict 10 inches of snow. That would then be a 10:1 ratio.
But it can get tricky.
If the meteorologists think there is the same amount of humidity to work with in the example above, but the temperature is 5 degrees, the cold air will push more humidity out of 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 got very different amounts of snow.
The biggest takeaway is that the amount of snow that falls is heavily influenced by temperature. Extreme cold can give us huge amounts of snow, but it will be dry snow with little moisture, while a “warmer” spring storm will have snow with a much higher moisture content.
5. What should my automotive emergency kit contain?
When it comes to your winter car emergency kit, we recommend putting the items below in a bag for easy access in case you need help:
- ice scraper
- Portable shovel
- Flash light
- Reflective Safety Vest
- First aid kit
- cell phone charger
- Candles and matches
- hand warmers
6. What is the temperature with the wind chill?
The National Weather Service has created the chart below to determine the “feels like” temperature taking into account wind chill.
For example, if the temperature is 30 degrees but the winds are blowing at 20 mph, the temperature would feel like 17 degrees.