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Winter Weather Alerts Issued for Multiple US States as Snow Tornado forms

Winter weather alerts are in place for parts of two U.S. states as meteorologists predict that a series of storm systems will bring “very strong” winds and heavy precipitation to Alaska, and one climatologist spotted a snow tornado in the state on New Year’s Eve.

The National Weather Service (NWS) issued advisories for the southwestern coastal regions of Alaska as well as northwestern Montana, warning of difficult travel conditions, reduced visibility and the possibility of black ice forming.

In its latest forecast, the NWS said blowing snow and snowdrifts could form along mountainous regions of Alaska, with the possibility of blizzard conditions along parts of the state’s west coast through Thursday.

The NWS expects wind gusts to potentially exceed 60 miles an hour along the Arctic coast through Thursday, with wind chills as low as minus 50 degrees. Conditions are expected to improve into next weekend.

In the meantime, advisories are in place for the Alaska Peninsula, St. Lawrence Island and the Kuskokwim Delta coast, where as much as 8 inches of snow could accumulate in places. Wind gusts could reach up to 55 miles an hour, and blowing snow could reduce visibility to half a mile or less at times, the NWS warned.

An alert is also in place for the Yukon Delta coast, where winds are anticipated to reach 60 miles an hour, with reduced visibility but only an inch of snow accumulating.

On Sunday, Brian Brettschneider, a climate scientist in Anchorage, Alaska, published video footage of wind patterns on a mountain range bordering the city whipping settled snow up into circular flows, which he dubbed “snownadoes.”

“Never underestimate the topography of the eastern Flattop Mountain ridgeline,” he wrote.

An advisory is also in place for parts of Montana including Bad Rock Canyon, to the north of Missoula, where up to 2 inches of snow, freezing drizzle and a “light glaze” of ice is expected overnight.

“Surface temperatures will cool to freezing or below through Sunday evening, which could allow for black ice formation on roadways,” the NWS said.

The weather forecast for the rest of the country is expected to be “quiet and generally mild,” meaning minimal weather-related travel disruptions for many on New Year’s Day, the NWS said.

It predicts a “light wintry mix” will continue for the lower Great Lakes and parts of the Appalachians because of an Alberta Clipper system—a cold front that tends to move southeast across the continental U.S. from the Canadian province.

However, the NWS said that widespread showers and thunderstorms were expected over Texas. At the same time, the West Coast will face more unsettled weather, with the heaviest rainfall anticipated along California’s northern coastline.

Western states, including Alaska, have faced several bouts of snowfall so far this winter, having been subjected to a “prolific series” of atmospheric river storms from the Pacific. Last winter, the West Coast experienced the effects of a similar weather front, with California seeing several rounds of flooding.

 

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