What is a blizzard?
Blizzards are dangerous winter storms that are a combination of blowing snow and wind resulting in very low visibilities. While heavy snowfalls and severe cold often accompany blizzards, they are not required. Sometimes strong winds pick up snow that has already fallen, creating a ground blizzard.
Officially, the National Weather Service defines a blizzard as a storm which contains large amounts of snow OR blowing snow, with winds in excess of 35 mph and visibilities of less than 1/4 mile for an extended period of time (at least 3 hours). When these conditions are expected, the National Weather Service will issue a “Blizzard Warning”. When these conditions are not expected to occur simultaneously, but one or two of these conditions are expected, a “Winter Storm Warning” or “Heavy Snow Warning” may be issued.
Blizzard conditions often develop on the northwest side of an intense storm system. The difference between the lower pressure in the storm and the higher pressure to the west creates a tight pressure gradient, or difference in pressure between two locations, which in turn results in very strong winds. These strong winds pick up available snow from the ground, or blow any snow which is falling, creating very low visibilities and the potential for significant drifting of snow.
Port Huron, MI notes: The blizzard of 2011 was not exceptional where we are. Maybe a foot or foot and a half of snow. Hard to tell with the strong wind and cold temperatures. I could watch the falling snow being blown in all directions, including up. It was really pretty. Now some more maps of the event.