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Wendy Reuer, Published February 27 2012

Blizzard barrels toward region

FARGO – A storm the National Weather Service says will bring at least a foot of snow here is still on track to be the first blizzard of the season.

Peter Rogers, an NWS meteorologist in Grand Forks, said as of Monday afternoon, the area was set to be under a blizzard watch for 24 hours starting at 6 p.m. today.

“There is still a little bit of uncertainty. That is why we’re keeping it at a watch instead of warning,” Rogers said Monday.

A watch signifies potential for a weather event. It often turns to a warning when conditions have been reported in an area.

Rogers said he expected at least a foot of snow to fall in the Fargo-Moorhead area and more snowfall farther south. Fergus Falls could see about 18 inches of snow, he said.

Whether the storm system will develop into a blizzard depends on wind.

“It’s a potentially very powerful storm. Unlike most of the storms we’ve had this winter, this one could lead to blizzard conditions,” said John Wheeler, chief meteorologist at WDAY-TV.

In order to be classified a blizzard, a winter storm must have sustained winds or frequent wind gusts of more than 35 mph.

“We won’t be having a blizzard until sometime on Wednesday, at the end of the storm,” Wheeler said.

If winds pick up, it will cause extremely poor visibility in open areas and travel will be hazardous at the peak of the storm, Rogers said.

The storm comes on the heels of this season’s first major snowfall. On Sunday, the Fargo-Moorhead area received 4.2 inches of snow, wreaking havoc on roads across North Dakota.

Highway Patrol Sgt. Josh Rude said there were at least a dozen accidents in southeast North Dakota as well as “countless” vehicles sliding into the ditch.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530