SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s called the Buffalo Ridge. And it has a big role in this week’s snow storm in southwestern Minnesota.
The Buffalo Ridge is a terrain of elevation of rolling hills that runs through several southwestern Minnesota counties including Lincoln and Pipestone counties.
The KELOLAND weather maps show that areas near the Buffalo Ridge could get 8 to 14 inches or more of snow from Tuesday, Feb. 21, through Thursday, Feb. 23. Officials in at least one city in the region said the city could get as much as 22 to 24 inches.
The Buffalo Ridge is in the bullseye, KELOLAND meteorologist Adam Rutt said.
Areas such as Pipestone and Marshall, Minnesota, could get 12 to 18 inches, he said. There is potential for pockets to get more than that, Rutt said.
The ridge is terrain that at an elevation of 1,995 feet above sea level, depending on the location. One way to find it in southwestern Minnesota is to look for all the wind turbines. The area has been a hotspot for wind turbine development since the mid-1990s.
KELOLAND Weather online resources
The terrain of the Buffalo Ridge can influence weather, Rutt said.
With this week’s storm, the “wind will be buffering up against the ridge, that it extra lift. In this case, the extra lift causes extra vertical motion,” Rutt said.
The storm will be more active in the ridge area, he said.
Those who live near the Buffalo Ridge know the potential impact.
“A lot of it, it’s the wind,” said Sheri Platt, the city administrator in Adrian, Minnesota. Adrian is along I-90 in Nobles County.
“We (can) get so much wind,” said Judd Guida, the utilities supervisor for Tyler, Minnesota. Tyler is on U.S. Highway 14 in Lincoln County.
The average wind speed in February in Tyler is 10.7 mph, according to Weather US. The average wind speed from Sept. 20 through June 1 in Marshall in Lyon County, is more than 11.1 mph.
Rutt said the wind has the right mix for a big storm impact. “In general the wind is a downslope wind,” Rutt said of the wind coming from the ridge. The wind will be from the northeast for this week’s storm, he said.
If the wind were from another direction, it would not have the same effect, Rutt said.
The National Weather Service said across Lincoln and Lyon counties the terrain goes from around 1,900 feet near Lake Benton, Minnesota, to 1,200 feet near Marshall This decrease in elevation is enough to allow downslope winds to develop, the NWS said.
Lincoln County Highway Engineer Joe Wilson said the Buffalo Ridge may cause more fog in the area.
“The wind definitely blows here,” Wilson said.
He can’t say if the Buffalo Ridge has impacted the wind this winter but, the wind “has been consistent this winter.”
“A lot of times we need to be out checking the roads, and sometimes we plow, where there is drifting snow or when it’s warmer and the snow blows and sticks on the road,” Wilson said.
The county has made some grade improvements to areas that are snow problems when the wind blows, Wilson said.
KELOLAND meteorologists said the wind could gust up to 40 to 50 mph during this storm. That will create whiteout or blizzard conditions.
Sections of I-90 in South Dakota and Minnesota have closed in prior storms this winter.
Platt and the Adrian city staff said during one storm at least 17 travelers left I-90 to stay in the fire hall in Adrian.
It’s been along winter but the city got a break with warm temperatures that melted the snow recently, Platt said.
Wilson said the winter is comparable to 2018 and 2011. “It’s been one of the busiest in the last three to four years,” he said.
Tuesday, the county’s highway department was making sure equipment was ready for the next storm in Buffalo Ridge territory.