Weekend storm threatens Prairie whiteouts, traffic standstills

March is off to a busy start on the Prairies as a major snowstorm will make travel difficult or impossible through the weekend

A formidable snowstorm aiming for the Prairies this weekend looks to bring the season’s largest snowfall to a wide swath of the region beginning Saturday morning and lasting through Monday morning. The heaviest snow will fall on Sunday as the system reaches its peak strength.

Plan ahead for rapidly accumulating snow on roads across the Prairies, with widespread travel disruptions likely as high winds lead to severely reduced visibility and whiteout conditions at times.

Prairies snowstorm forecast confidence

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Snow builds Saturday, storm peaks on Sunday

We’ll watch snow build into southern Alberta on Saturday morning as this stateside storm grows organized and heads north toward the border.

Snow will gradually spread north toward Edmonton and east into Saskatchewan through the afternoon and evening hours on Saturday.

Prairies snow wind Saturday afternoon

Cold temperatures across the western half of the Prairies will make this a light and fluffy snow, which accumulates in a hurry and easily blows around in gusty winds.

Folks across Alberta will see snowfall ease into Sunday morning as the system continues to strengthen and push east.

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Heavy snow is likely across much of southern portions of Saskatchewan and Manitoba by Sunday morning, continuing through the day. Very heavy snowfall rates of 5+ cm per hour are possible along the Yellowhead Highway during the storm’s peak on Sunday. Precipitation will continue overnight before tapering off by Monday morning.

Blowing snow a significant concern for weekend travel

Gusty winds of 50-70 km/h will accompany the heavy snowfall across the region, leading to extended periods of severely reduced visibility.

Prairies snow wind Sunday morning

Complete whiteouts are possible at times. Travel will be difficult if not impossible on all roads across the region during heavy snow and high winds.

Rapidly accumulating snow and poor visibility will make travel difficult or nearly impossible, especially along the Yellowhead. Travellers along the Trans-Canada Highway in Saskatchewan and Manitoba will also have to contend with heavy, blowing snow.

Snowfall totals up to 40 cm are possible

The greatest accumulations in Alberta will largely miss the QE2, with 5-10 cm in the forecast across Calgary, Red Deer, and Edmonton. Farther east, though, we could see 10-20 cm of snow by the end of the weekend around Oyen and Cold Lake, with totals up to 30 cm possible around Lloydminster.

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Prairies total snowfall accumulations

Forecasters expect the heaviest snowfall totals to target portions of southern Saskatchewan and the Manitoba Lakes, including Saskatoon and Dauphin, where 20-40 cm of snow is possible by the time precipitation wraps up on Monday. Folks around Regina in the south and The Pas in the north could see 10-20 cm of snow by Monday. It would only take a slight shift in the storm's track to bump these higher totals toward the north or south.

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The greatest uncertainty surrounding this storm is the potential for a sharp cutoff in snowfall totals around Winnipeg. Warm air aloft will move into the region on Sunday.

This intrusion of warm air into southern Manitoba could force a changeover to ice pellets in and around Winnipeg, which would significantly cut down snow accumulations here. Warmer temperatures will also make for wetter snow in Manitoba as opposed to the light and fluffy powder expected to the west.

Stay with The Weather Network for all the latest on this snowstorm across the Prairies.

WATCH: Pileup on Trans-Canada caused by zero-visibility snowstorm