Mid-January Storm To Bring All Manner of Nasty Weather

A powerful storm system is pushing into Southern Manitoba this morning and will become the first major storm of the year. This storm will impact the entirety of Manitoba and bring very strong winds, heavy snow, near-blizzard conditions and a good chance of some freezing rain. Read on to find out where will see what as we break this thing down.

  • Significant weather expected: strong winds (and blowing snow), freezing rain and heavy snowfall.

  • Expected storm-total snowfall amounts from this system.

Disclaimer: I could write many more words than I have time to write about this system. As such, I’m going to just explicitly state right now that while I may mention areas outside the Red River Valley, the focus of this post will be for the weather expected in Winnipeg & the Red River Valley.

We’ll start out with the good news: temperatures are expected to stay near or above normal[1] through the remainder of the week; no horribly cold Arctic air is expected to slam southwards into the Prairies with this system. That’s about where the good news ends, though.

As we progress through this morning, an area of snow will move into the Red River Valley, pushing in from the west ahead of the incoming warm front. The low pressure centre is currently in northeastern Saskatchewan and will begin to dive southeast into Central Manitoba later this morning. Winds will strengthen out of the south this morning up to around 40-50km/h with gusts as high as 70km/h. Despite the relatively mild temperatures – we’re sitting at around -10°C – extensive blowing snow will likely be an issue in areas to the south of Winnipeg[2] thanks to the strength of the winds.


3°C / -11°C
Snow beginning this morning. Very windy. Risk of freezing rain this afternoon. Flurries overnight with blizzard conditions in the Red River Valley.

The heaviest snowfall will pass to the north and east of the city where a heavy snowfall warning is in effect for 10-15cm of snow. Here in the Red River Valley we’ll see a fair gradient in snowfall amounts from the southwest corner to the northeast corner thanks to how the precipitation spreads in from northwest to southeast. Through the day today, areas in the southwest corner can expect the lighter end of the snowfall with only around 2-5cm accumulation by the evening. Here in Winnipeg we’ll see from 5-10cm of snow while closer to 10cm of snow will fall to our north and east.

Our winds, as mentioned before, will become quite strong out of the south. They’ll lighten a little bit for the early afternoon as they swing to the west as the low pressure system moves through the Interlake and the warm front pushes east of the Red River Valley. Our temperature will jump up to around +2 or +3°C and we’ll see a break in any blowing snow that’s happening. By mid-to-late afternoon, though, a cold front will be approaching. Winds will shift a little more to the northwest and we’ll see a risk for some freezing rain just ahead of and along the cold front as it pushes through. In addition, there is the potential for some fairly heavy bursts of snow along the cold front with some models hinting that there may be a fair amount of convective activity associated with it[3]. Winds will shift straight out of the northwest by the evening and strengthen considerably to 50km/h with gusts potentially as high as 80km/h overnight here in Winnipeg.

This wind will readily whip up the freshly fallen snow in the RRV and produce near-zero or white-out conditions on area highways. Despite the fact that temperatures will not drop too quickly – only to around -10°C overnight – it will still be a brutal night. Continued flurry activity will likely continue through the night, compounding the visibility problems presented by the winds alone.


⇒ -10°C / -20°C
Windy with blowing snow. Mainly cloudy.

The snow will taper off early on Thursday, but poor visibilities will continue through much of the day as the strong northwest winds persist at 40-50km/h at least into the early afternoon. Temperatures will remain fairly steady at around -10°C.

By evening the wind will taper off as a ridge of high pressure moves into the province, bringing an end to any blowing snow left in the Red River Valley. The clouds will also scatter out and we’ll drop to a chilly -21°C for our overnight low.

Friday & The Weekend

-10°C / -14°C
Cloudy periods with a chance of afternoon flurries.

Friday will start off sunny but some cloudy periods will develop as a warm front pushes into the Red River Valley. We’ll become overcast in the mid-to-late afternoon and see a chance for a few flurries as the warm front pushes eastwards. This front will usher in warmer air for the weekend with highs near the 0°C mark and overnight lows dropping just shy of around -10°C.

  1. Normal daytime highs are around -13°C for mid-January.  ↩
  2. As usual, with a southerly wind the highways that will be affected most are those that run west/east.  ↩
  3. As evidenced by lightning in Northern Alberta last night.  ↩

Winter Storm Moving In

The remainder of the week will be defined by a significant storm system moving through much of central North America. This system has two main areas of snow: one through the Great Lakes associated with a powerful surface low and it’s fronts and a second one that will impact us associated with the system’s upper low moving into the region. Snow and blowing snow will be replaced by bitterly cold Arctic air moving in for the weekend that will entrench itself into Southern Manitoba for the first frigid winter blast of the year.

Tuesday Night

Tuesday Night

Periods of snow. 2-5cm accumulation.

The snow has already started flying through much of the Red River Valley and will continue to do so through much of the overnight period. There may be breaks here and there, but for the most part mainly snowy conditions are expected with a total of 2-5cm of snow piling up before the main system moves in tomorrow morning. The winds will increase to 30 gust 50km/h fairly early this evening, and there may be local areas of blowing snow giving reduced visibility. The early start to the snowfall will ensure that highway conditions will already be in a somewhat deteriorated state by morning. We’ll see temperatures drop to around -14°C tonight.

Wednesday & Wednesday Night

Update: Environment Canada has issued a snowfall warning for the Red River Valley and SE Manitoba.

→ -14°C / -16°C
Snow. 10-20cm by Thursday morning.

Snow will persist through to Thursday morning and will be very fluffy which will help it pile up relatively quickly We’ll likely see 5–10cm on Wednesday with another 5–10cm Wednesday night, bringing a total to somewhere between 10–20cm for the City of Winnipeg by Thursday morning.

In addition to the snow, moderate northerly winds will develop, increasing to around 30km/h with gusts to around 50–60km/h. These winds would usually not be too much of a concern, but with such fluffy snow falling, blowing snow will likely be a concern for anyone planning to do highway travelling. With winds out of the north, visibilities on Highway 75 will likely be restricted mostly by the falling snow, but any west-east highways will likely have significant drifting and blowing snow. Of particular concern will be the Trans-Canada Highway from Winnipeg to Portage la Prairie; ever battered by blowing snow, travel conditions along that stretch will likely deteriorate fairly quickly through this morning. The winds may not be strong enough to result in closure of the highway (although I wouldn’t rule it out), but they will certainly make travel more difficult.

Forecast storm-total snowfall amounts for Southern Manitoba.
Forecast storm-total snowfall amounts for Southern Manitoba.

The snow will begin to taper off late Wednesday night, perhaps into Thursday morning, with many areas in Southern Manitoba seeing close to 15–25cm of new snow. Although the significant snowfall will be done for Thursday, the wind will be another story.



→ -16°C / -22°C
Flurries; blowing snow in open areas.

Most of the snow will have tapered off by tomorrow morning, but we’ll still see widespread light flurry activity today which may end up adding another 2cm of snow or so to the totals for any areas that see more prolonged activity. The bigger news will be the northwesterly winds, 30–40km/h that will be blowing through the valley bringing in cold, Arctic air.

As the low pressure system moves off to our east, a bitterly cold Arctic high will begin building into the region. The colder air pushing in will prevent our temperature from rising much on Thursday and will give a pretty nasty bite to the wind. Wind chill values will sit in the –25 to –30 range, making it one of the first truly cold days of the year. In addition, some low-level instability caused by the cold air advection will combine with the northwesterly winds and fresh, fluffy snow to continue producing blowing snow through the Red River Valley in most open areas. With northwesterly winds, most highways will be affected by drifting or blowing snow.

The clouds will begin to break up overnight with some continued scattered flurry activity as we drop to a low of around –22°C.



→ -21°C / -25°C
Partly cloudy, slight chance of light flurries. Cold.

The sun will begin to peek out on Friday after what seems like forever of being cloudy. Unfortunately, that seeing that big bright ball in the sky is thanks to the Arctic high settling over the region, which means we’ll also be bitterly cold. Our daytime high won’t really recover from Thursday night’s low and we’ll just be heading down, down, down for the weekend. The winds will also be lighter ending any blowing snow concerns. We may end up seeing some flakes of snow out of whatever clouds are around, but they won’t produce any accumulations.

Skies will clear completely on Friday night as we drop to around –26°C for an overnight low.

The Weekend Ahead


Very cold.

As the Arctic ridge really entrenches itself over the province, we’ll likely see our first overnight lows dropping below –30°C this weekend, perhaps even into the mid-minus–30’s. We’ll end off the weekend/start the new week with a chance of some snow as a system dives down through the province. At this point it doesn’t look like a very significant system.

Small Disturbance Today; Significant Colorado Low This Weekend

There will be a very slight chance of showers today as a low pushes across the Interlake region, however the bigger news will be this weekend, when a powerful Colorado Low ushers in winter over Southern Manitoba.

The rough track of the upcoming Colorado Low

A satellite image showing the current position and estimated track of the Colorado Low that will impact Southern Manitoba this weekend.

A low pressure system track through the Interlake today will bring 10-15cm of snow through Central Manitoba, north of the track of the low. Through southern Manitoba, there will just be a slight chance of a shower through the afternoon and evening as most areas see a mainly cloudy day with a high near 3 or 4°C. There’s a slight chance to see some sun across many areas this morning, however the likelihood of fog development in any clear areas may mask the chance for sunshine.

Thursday will bring some sunshine and a windy morning, with winds gusting out of the N/NE to 30 or 40km/h behind the system, but should lighten into the afternoon. Temperatures will be cooler than late, with highs only around -1 or 0°C.

By Friday, we’ll begin to feel the impact of the Colorado Low. Winds will begin to pick up out of the northeast as snow begins pushing into SW Manitoba. Snow will make it’s way into the Red River Valley overnight, with steadier snow developing Saturday morning. Disagreement still exists amongst the model runs as to where the heaviest snowfall will be, however the NAEFS (North American Ensemble Forecast System) has been startling consistent over the past few days with painting the heaviest snowfall right over Winnipeg.

Probability of > 10cm of Snowfall

Probability of ≥ 10cm of snowfall from the NAEFS, valid from 12Z November 10th to 00Z November 11th (a 12hr. accumulation).

The NAEFS is showing significant confidence in areas in Southwest Manitoba (Melita, Pilot Mound, Virden and Brandon) regions seeing more than 10cm of snow, with a decent likelihood of people west of the Red River seeing ≥ 10cm as well. North of the Trans-Canada highway, it looks like from Portage to Winnipeg has a sizeable chance of seeing greater accumulations, as well as into the Southern Interlake.

Snow will taper off on Sunday, however significant accumulations will likely have developed in it’s wake. Current indications are that the SE corner of the Red River Valley will see the least snow, and accumulations will increase as you head west and north. In addition to the snow, gusty winds to 50 or 60km/h will push into the Red River Valley as well, producing widespread reductions in visibility due to falling and blowing snow. System-total precipitation looks to be 15-25mm, which when taking into account the expected SLR (snow-to-liquid ratio) of around 10:1, would result in a total of 15-25cm of snow. General estimates for accumulated snowfall by the end of the weekend for a few select sites are:

  • Winnipeg: 15-20cm
  • Steinbach: 10-20cm
  • Morden/Winkler: 15-25cm
  • Portage la Prairie: 15-25cm
  • Brandon: 10-20cm
  • Pilot Mound: 15-25cm
  • Sprague: 5-15cm
  • Victoria Beach: 10-20cm
  • Gimli: 10-15cm

We’ll have more updates on the track of this system as the week progresses. Monitor EC’s Weather Office site for forecasts and any watches or special weather statements as the week progresses. Although the exact timing and intensity of this system may be difficult to pin down, it’s a safe bet to say that driving conditions will likely be extremely poor with ice-covered roads and low visibilities in blowing snow. Conditions in North Dakota will also be quite poor as well this weekend. If you have plans to travel by car/truck this weekend, be sure that you’re prepared for the hazardous weather that will be present. Always carry a winter survival kit in your vehicle if you must travel during winter storms.

Snow on the Way

A significant storm system is currently developing in Montana this morning that will push it’s way eastwards across the Northern Plains of the United States and into Northwestern Ontario by Thursday morning.


Snow will push into Saskatchewan today and a snow band will develop aligned somewhere between Shaunovan and Kamsack, as shown in the above model image. There is a slight chance that some of these sites will see warning-level amounts of snow, however it currently looks like the possibility of that is borderline. This band of snow will then consolidate and push into Central Manitoba, while a second impulse brings an area of lift into Southeastern Saskatchewan and Southern Manitoba.


This second band of snow will move eastwards through Southern Manitoba, giving most areas somewhere between 5-10cm of snow. Brisk northerly winds will push into the Red River Valley on the backside of the low as it moves into Northwestern Ontario, and with fresh snow, significant blowing snow will exist in any open areas inside the valley. Based on this projection, the snow would begin in Winnipeg late Thursday morning and last until sometime Friday morning, with the heaviest snow and worst conditions coming by late Thursday afternoon. Significant blowing snow would most likely occur during the evening and overnight period, which will be important to take into account for anybody planning to travel on Thursday evening/night, especially through the southern Red River Valley.

At least, that is how this system should evolve. The jury is still out on what will actually happen. The last 5 runs of the GEM-REG model have all produced drastically different results. The GFS and NAM offer little consensus on where the heaviest snow will be, the UKMET shows similarities to the 00Z GEM-REG run (from which I’ve gotten these images), and ensemble models show little confidence in the track and evolution of this system. Why is this? One look at the Water Vapour imagery shows the problem:


The two +’s in this image are the two main vorticity centers for this incoming system, and the yellow arrows depict their rough paths given the streams they are each in, respectively. This system is a somewhat unique scenario, wherein the two “streams” of air are close together, and are moving in sync. Typically, the reason this is a problem is because the models can have a hard time dealing with the energy distribution between the two streams. We have seen many times in the past where model solutions flip flop back and forth and back and forth, even when the event is close (less than 36 hours away) where the model error could be attributed to the complex dynamics that occur when this situation occurs.

So if we don’t actually know what’s going to happen, what’s going to happen?  Odds are that the RRV will get snow on Thursday.  I’ll go on record saying we’ll get at least 3-4 cm.  In a worst case scenario, a line from Pilot Mound to Winnipeg could get as much as 10-15 cm, however I think that’s quite unlikely.  If we get fresh snow in the RRV, there will be blowing snow Thursday night as the winds pick up to 50G70 km/h out of the north.  And sadly, our wonderful warm spell is going to come to an end this week, with temperatures plummeting to -20°C by Friday morning.

I’ll keep the comments of this post updated as the system develops and try to narrow down the impact it will have on Southern Manitoba.  Stay tuned!