Alberta clipper to coat Upper Midwest, Great Lakes with snow

·4 min read

AccuWeather forecasters say a quick-hitting storm, known as an Alberta clipper, is forecast to usher in frigid air and the first accumulating snow of the season for some across a wide swath of the country this holiday weekend.

While astronomical winter does not kick off until Dec. 21, meteorological winter begins Dec. 1. Before winter, by any definition, arrives, some residents will have to bring winter coats out of storage and dust off their snow shovels this weekend.

Due to a dip in the jet stream, frigid air rushed across portions of the Midwest and Great Lakes early Friday to set the stage for stormy weather to come.

During Friday night, stormy weather began to develop as the Alberta clipper started to dive out of Canada and approach the north-central United States.

"Disturbances remain active over the northern Pacific, and these will move inland over western Canada. These storms are referred to as Alberta clippers as they sometimes originate from the Canadian province of Alberta and tend to move swiftly along in the southward dip of the jet stream around the Great Lakes and Northeast," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski explained.

This particular clipper is set to spread a stripe of snow from Minnesota to Michigan during the day Saturday. Saturday's high temperatures across the area are expected to top out in the middle to upper 30s for much of the area, which may cause snow to struggle to accumulate in any significant fashion.

Forecasters say a general 1-3 inches of snow is possible from northern Minnesota to Wisconsin and part of Michigan on Saturday. Larger population centers, such as the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metropolitan area, are forecast to be just south of any of the steadiest snow on Saturday, with accumulations forecast to be on the lower end of the spectrum. The Twin Cities can expect a coating to an inch of snow from Saturday's clipper.


Snow accumulations across these areas on Saturday are generally expected to be recorded on grassy or elevated surfaces, not paved areas.

However, any slushy or slick conditions that do develop on roadways may lead to travel issues or significant delays as the volume of travelers continues to increase throughout the holiday weekend.

Snow will spread even farther east Saturday night and Sunday and reach areas from the Great Lakes and to portions of the interior Northeast.

"Saturday night may get messy for some larger metropolitan areas like Detroit as the sun goes down and temperatures fall," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Adam Douty said.

As temperatures fall below freezing at the surface, snow will have a better chance at accumulation as the open ground and paved surfaces begin to cool.

Residents of the Motor City may wake up on Sunday morning to snow already covering the ground with more to come as the day progresses.

Snow will continue across much of the Great Lakes region on Sunday, with the steadiest snowfall expected across northern Michigan as well as the state's Upper Peninsula.

Snowfall amounts will remain in the general 1-to-3-inch range across much of the Great Lakes region. However, portions of Michigan are likely to pick up heavier snow, with totals reaching anywhere from 3-6 inches, even before lake-effect kicks in as the storm departs. Where the lake-effect snow machine ramps up for a time on Sunday, an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 10 inches is most likely to be reached.

With the exception of some lake-effect snow expected to persist into Monday downwind of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, snow will wind down later Sunday across much of the Great Lakes.

For much of the Upper Midwest, November has been a rather mild month in terms of temperature, so any accumulating snow may come as a wake-up call this weekend.

Some major metros such as Chicago are forecast to miss out on the worst of the stormy conditions, as the path of the storm has begun to track too far north to bring any significant impacts to this city.

So far, Chicago's O'Hare International Airport has officially recorded only a trace of snowfall for the season, according to AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Dan Pydynowski.

The city typically records its first measurable snowfall, defined as at least a tenth of an inch of accumulation, by Nov. 15, putting Chicago already a week and a half behind schedule with no snow in this weekend's forecast.

"Though there is the potential to finally break the snow drought and receive some accumulation late Saturday into Saturday night, the storm track appears such that the best chance of accumulating snow will likely remain north of Chicagoland," Pydynowski explained.

Even though Chicago is likely to miss the mark with this upcoming clipper, forecasters say it's unlikely that the city will make a run at the record for latest first measurable snowfall, which is currently Dec. 20, 2012.

"There may be more opportunities for snow around Chicago and other parts of the Upper Midwest with additional clipper storms on the horizon into the middle of next week," Sosnowski said.

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