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Published February 27, 2012, 07:03 PM

Mid-week storm could mark first blizzard of the season

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV) - If tomorrow's storm turns out to be a blizzard, it'll be the first one of the year. StormTRACKER Meteorologist Rob Kupec looks at why we are so prone to getting these storms, and some of the numbers behind them.

If tomorrow's storm turns out to be a blizzard, it'll be the first one of the year. StormTRACKER Meteorologist Rob Kupec looks at why we are so prone to getting these storms, and some of the numbers behind them.

Blizzards: they are the worst that winter has to offer. But a little wind and snow like yesterday are not a blizzard. The official definition says the wind must be 35 mph or more with blowing or falling snow that reduces visibility to 1/4 mile or less. These conditions must exist for 3 hour or more. Our region gets more Blizzards than anywhere else in the US.

This map shows the number of blizzards by county over a 40 year span with the dark blue seeing the most of 41 to 74. That's an average of 1 or 2 per year. According to records from the National Weather Service our area average closer to 3. So what makes this the Blizzard Alley of the US?

Daryl Ritchison – WDAY StormTRACKER Meteorologist: “There's 2 principal factors latitude and topography. The obvious answer is we're just big and flat, so we just generate a lot of wind but it's also latitude in the sense that we just get a lot of mid latitude cyclones that pass through here.”

While we haven't seen a blizzard this year it’s not uncommon to go through an entire winter with no blizzards. We had that just 5 years ago where most of the region didn't have any blizzard conditions. The winter of 1996/97 was the year with the most blizzards when the area was hit with 10. If this week’s storm is a blizzard it will come in the winter month with the fewest such storms.

Over the last nearly 40 years there have only been 12 blizzards in February while January had the most at 23 and December's had 20. March has had 16 in that time period

Daryl Ritchison: “March sometimes the snow just tends to be a little heavier and dense, therefore you still get the wind speed but sometimes it didn't meet the definition of a blizzard because visibilities never technically dropped below 1/4 of a mile.”

Though the blizzard of 1966 was in March and many consider that to be the biggest to hit the area. If it wasn't a leap year, this storm could have been a March blizzard as well.

Earlier this winter we did have another blizzard Watch. That storm had wind but not enough snow to create blizzard conditions.

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