It began raining in Fargo around mid-afternoon, Sunday, November 28th. It kept raining until early Monday morning when the precipitation changed to sleet. It sleeted most of Monday before changing to snow around 4 PM. Most of Monday and Monday night, the wind was around 30-40 mph with gusts even higher. (Precise measurements were not possible due to the anemometers freezing up in the rain earlier!) Blizzard conditions produced zero visibility in open country from late-afternoon Monday through most of Monday night. Total precipitation was 0.99" melted but only 4.2" of snow.
The blizzard part of the storm (Monday afternoon and night) would have been worse had more of the precipitation fallen as snow. On the other hand, all that freezing rain left a thick glaze on area roads which, combined with the zero-visibility of the blizzard, made travel essentially impossible.
All in all, I think this storm was handled reasonably well by the WDAY meteorologists as well as the National Weather Service. On Friday, my forecast called for clouds Sunday and light snow and wind Monday. (I mentioned heavier snow for the Twin Cities. The National Weather Service was essentially the same. On Saturday, Joe Goldade called for snow Sunday afternoon into Monday with possible heavy snow. The National Weather Service issued a Winter Storm Watch on Saturday for Sunday afternoon and Monday.
What we missed was the layer of warm air that caused all the freezing rain and sleet. To be fair, such layers are difficult to detect and predict. Nonetheless, it was the aspect of this storm that we all missed early on.
By Sunday, the freezing rain threat was more obvious. It was also obvious that the wind would be fierce Monday. The focus of the forecast problem now shifted to how much snow would fall. This was made difficult by the freezing rain. The longer it rained, the less snow would fall. the National Weather Service went ahead and issued a Winter Storm Warning on Sunday.
By Monday morning, rain was turning to sleet as colder air rushed into the system by a strong and gusty north wind. Heavy snow was falling in South Dakota. Daryl Ritchison told viewers on FirstNews that snow amounts would vary greatly due to the sleet, but that a Blizzard Warning was likely by afternoon no matter how much snow fell due to the increasing wind. He was right. The National Weather Service issueed a Blizzard Warning later in the morning.
Major winter storm forecasts are usually a dynamic. It isn’t easy to forecast them correctly, especially when sleet and freezing rain are part of the mix. Considering it all, I think this storm was reasonably well handled by WDAY and the National Weather Service. The two biggest errors were WDAY missing the freezing rain on our Saturday forecast (We recognized that rain would fall nearby but didn’t catch the freezing rain potential.) and the National Weather Service forecasting too much snow on Monday (6-12 inches and we got a little more than four (4.2")).
In the end, anyone keeping up with the news should have been aware that a viscious storm was coming and they should have had time to change their plans and stay safe.