Learning from the Blue Blizzard: Mitigating Snowstorm Impact on Utilities

How can utility companies minimize disruption caused by extreme weather events? Learning from the past is a great place to start

Extreme weather is every utility company’s nightmare. As if ensuring energy is delivered efficiently at all times to customers isn’t challenging enough, extreme weather events can cause issues that extend far beyond the obvious impact of a storm or flood. Weather data and insights are a great starting point – but how can utility companies ensure they’re prepared for every eventuality an extreme event can present?

The answer lies in learning from what went before. In a recent webcast, DTN meteorologist and solution engineer Brad Nelson discussed a case study of the “Blue Blizzard,” a severe winter storm that struck northern Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin in December 2022. This extreme event, characterized by heavy wet snow, caused significant challenges for utility companies in managing power outages and infrastructure damage. And it’s these very challenges that form a helpful roadmap for future resilience.


The Blue Blizzard

The Blue Blizzard, named for the unique blue tint of the snow due to its high water content, brought 1 to 2 feet of accumulation over four days, with amounts reaching up to 30 inches in some places. The storm, featuring a mix of wintry precipitation, freezing rain, and heavy snow, resulted in more than 35,000 homes and businesses losing power.

But the challenge didn’t end there. The combination of poor road conditions, strong winds, and heavy, wet snow hindered restoration efforts prolonged power outages and made some recovery plans hard to execute.

The weight of the dense snow caused tree limbs to fall on power lines, resulting in widespread outages. Additionally, the challenging conditions made it difficult for crews to access infrastructure, leading to delays in restoration efforts.

While storm damage is unpredictable, and nature will always throw in surprises, this extreme example can help utility companies the world over mitigate against future snow-related outages.

To help, we’ve compiled recommendations of steps to take to stay ahead of snow:


Use Global Weather Intelligence
  • Leverage global weather intelligence platforms to understand the potential impact of storms. Use the most detailed source you can – drilling down to street-level granularity will help you accurately assess the specific risks in different regions.
  • Think strategically and keep a close eye on weather events that could indirectly impact your operations. Don’t stop at your local area – look at areas where mutual assistance may be required to avoid any nasty surprises.


Predict and Mobilize early
  • Weather data alone is not enough when predicting outages. Smart tools and modelling technology give a deeper level of data to base decisions on. Utilize outage prediction tools and AI models to understand the potential magnitude of outages. Knowledge is power – establishing the worst-case scenario can save you stress later on.
  • Use this intelligence to mobilize staff and equipment ahead of time. Deploying your resources in strategic locations early can help facilitate quicker restoration of outages.

How can utility companies ensure they’re prepared for every eventuality an extreme event can present? The answer lies in learning from what went before.


Invest in Grid Resiliency
  • With advances in technology and innovation, customer’s expectations of fast power restorations are higher than ever before. We live in a fully digital world – no power means no work for most businesses. Your reputation is only as strong as your grid.
  • Investing in grid resiliency for the future is always worthwhile – prevention is better than a cure. Consider long-term solutions such as undergrounding lines and deploying stronger materials for poles and towers.


Use Situational Awareness Tools
  • Employ advanced situational awareness tools, such as the DTN storm risk dashboard, to monitor and analyze weather conditions.
  • Rather than proactively monitoring, a system like this allows you to customize exactly what you need and monitor problem areas minute by minute. Create color-coded alerts to help easily track different hazard levels based on specific thresholds.


Think Ahead to Mutual Assistance Planning
  • When extreme weather hits, it helps to have a plan already in place for mutual assistance. Think beyond your immediate location; are you likely to be competing for resources with neighbouring utilities? Will events nearby have an indirect impact on your operations?
  • When you spot severe weather incoming, engage resources from outside the impacted region ahead of time to ensure a timely and effective response.



The Blue Blizzard case study highlights the importance of proactive planning, using advanced technology, and resilient infrastructure for utilities facing the challenges of extreme snowstorms. By learning from these events utilities can prepare more thoroughly, improve response times, and ultimately minimize the impact of severe winter weather on power distribution and infrastructure.

Utilities can make better-informed decisions with new, right-time, utility industry-interpreted weather intelligence through products like DTN Storm Risk Analytics. With real-time insights, utilities can confidently anticipate, prepare, and respond, restoring service with timely data modeled specifically for critical utility industry planning.

Request a demo of DTN Storm Risk solutions today