MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - A blizzard roared into North Dakota on Monday and was expected to dump up to a foot of snow in neighboring Minnesota before moving east over the mid-Atlantic states, where it could bury the Washington area with its biggest snowfall of the winter, the National Weather Service said.
Blowing snow and drifts up to 3 feet left parts of northeast Montana and the northwest North Dakota oil region with visibility at a quarter of mile under blizzard conditions that were expected to last into Monday afternoon, the weather service said.
Grand Forks, on the eastern border with Minnesota, reported 6 inches of snow on Monday morning and was expecting about 10 inches overall.
The North Dakota transportation department is recommending "no travel" on numerous roads across the northwestern part of the state where there is a blizzard, and a stretch of Interstate 94 from west of Fargo to east of Bismarck.
The state, known for winter blizzards, took the latest storm in stride.
"It's a normal late winter storm for us," said Adam Jones, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck, North Dakota.
The Minneapolis and St. Paul metropolitan area expected a couple of inches of snow Monday from a separate storm system and up to 10 inches of snow from the main winter storm, mostly overnight into Tuesday morning, the weather service said.
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport had 98 flight cancellations on Monday morning and O'Hare International Airport 38, FlightAware.com reported.
Overall, the winter storm is expected to stretch across North Dakota, much of Minnesota, northern Iowa, western Wisconsin and then into northern Illinois later on Monday.
Northeastern Illinois, including Chicago, was forecast to receive 6 to 9 inches of snow overall, starting from Monday night and becoming more intense Tuesday, spanning the morning and evening rush hours, the weather service said.
The storm was forecast to move east, reaching the Ohio Valley, the mid-Atlantic states and the Washington area on Tuesday and Wednesday.
"This will be certainly the biggest snowstorm for the winter in this area," said National Weather Service forecaster Bruce Sullivan, who is in Maryland.
Forecasting models varied, but the system could dump anywhere from 12 to 20 inches of snow over northern Virginia and parts of Maryland, Sullivan said.
It will bring a cold, dry snow over the mountains of Virginia and a heavy, wet snow east of Washington, he said.
One of the more challenging aspects is predicting how much snow would fall on or east of heavily traveled Interstate 95 in Virginia and Maryland, forecasters said.
"We are into March now. It may start out as a little bit of rain and just how quickly it changes into snow will impact how much we get," Sullivan said.
Additional reporting by Jane Sutton and Ian Simpson; Editing by Vicki Allen, Philip Barbara and Richard Chang