Heavy snow, strong winds and dangerous whiteout blizzard conditions will mark much of the weekend across the Prairies as a powerful and long-lasting low-pressure system threatens all-time snow records for the region. Expect widespread travel shutdowns, with residents being urged to also make an emergency plan and get an emergency kit that includes drinking water and food. For a closer look at timing and impact, see below.
Snow will be in full swing by Saturday morning in Alberta, lingers into Monday for parts of Manitoba
30-50+ cm of snow possible in hardest hit areas through Monday morning
Blizzard conditions likely Sunday with winds gusting to 80-90+ km/h at times
INTO SATURDAY: SNOW PUSHES INTO SOUTHERN ALBERTA, SASKATCHEWAN
While we're well off from the "official" start of winter, the Prairies are actually more likely to see their heaviest snows in the leadup and wind-down of that season. This weekend will deliver a massive wintry blast that could set all-time records for the region.
A convergence of two factors is behind this messy set-up. The first is a shot of Arctic air that began sinking southward across the Prairies Friday, intensifying as the weekend goes on.
Second: A deepening low-pressure system south of the international border that began a slow track northward Friday evening into early Saturday.
The result looks to be prodigious amounts of snowfall, heaviest in southern Alberta and much of southern Saskatchewan, which will be in full swing by Saturday morning and looks to continue through much of the weekend.
By Saturday morning and afternoon, snowfall rates will start to rapidly intensify across southern areas of Alberta and central Saskatchewan. Overnight Saturday, the heaviest snow moves into the rest of Saskatchewan and central Manitoba.
SUNDAY: DANGEROUS BLIZZARD-LIKE CONDITIONS WITH HAZARDOUS TRAVEL
The storm will keep its strength as it tracks into southeastern Saskatchewan and southern Manitoba on Sunday.
The heaviest snow for southern Saskatchewan will fall during the day on Sunday but will weaken and linger into Monday morning.
Wind-wise, the strongest wind gusts will be during the day on Sunday throughout southern Saskatchewan and southeastern Alberta with sustained winds of 40+ km/h with gusts of 60-90+ km/h. The strong wind gusts will happen at the same time as the heaviest snow; consequently, this will cause blizzard conditions across southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, making travel inadvisable.
"Avoid travel if possible. Rapidly accumulating snow could make travel difficult over some locations," warns Environment Canada in a winter storm watch issued for the region. "Travel is expected to be hazardous due to reduced visibility in some locations."
There's also a heightened threat for significant freezing rain for southeastern Saskatchewan and central Manitoba through Monday morning, with up to 1 cm of ice accretion possible. That could lead to further complications on the roads as well as the potential for power outages.
Even as winds begin dying down, blowing and drifting snow will remain a problem, with travel being difficult for some time after the worst of the snow is over.
WATCH BELOW: WHAT MAKES THE PRAIRIES THE BULLSEYE FOR SNOW DRIFTS AND TREACHEROUS ROADS
JUST HOW MUCH SNOW IS LIKELY TO FALL?
Forecasters are still hammering out the forecast for this snowfall event, but it's looking like parts of Saskatchewan and Alberta may pick up snowfall totals of 30-50+ cm.
That puts several communities in line for their largest daily snowfall on record for the entire month of November, and certainly well above, the average for the month.
Some of those records include 78.7 cm in Pincher Creek, Alberta, set in 1905, 35.6 cm in Calgary, Alberta, set in 1914, 35.6 cm in Estevan, Saskatchewan, set in 1906, and 32.2 cm in Medicine Hat, Alberta, set in 1990.
Depending on how the storm shakes out, there's also a non-zero chance that many of those communities may even see their single largest daily snowfall total since records began.
BEYOND THE STORM: LINGERING EFFECTS, BITTER WIND CHILLS
The system moves out late Sunday night into the pre-dawn hours Monday morning. However, strong winds will continue in the wake of the system, allowing for reduced visibilities and blowing or drifting snow to persist into early next week.
Colder weather will finally spread into the eastern Prairies as the storm departs, as well, and Arctic air will dominate across the Prairies early and mid-next week. During and after the storm, the wind chill will plunge into the minus teens and minus twenties.
Temperatures will recover to near or above seasonal by late-week and through next weekend.
Be sure to check back with The Weather Network as we provide updates on the forthcoming, potential blizzard.