Winter storm slams region as first flakes fall
By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor
Winter came in with a roar.
After abnormally high temperatures for the Thanksgiving weekend, a storm system, uncommon even for this state, arrived Monday morning.
“This was not a common event for North Dakota,” John Paul Martin said. Martin is a Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck.
Snow was in the forecast as early as Thanksgiving day. But as it got closer to the weekend, it was developing into a larger system and warning went out roughly 36 hours before Monday.
Nearly 20 inches of snow was forecasted, but some areas exceeded that number and received as much as two feet northwest of Bismarck all the way up to Lake Sakakawea. Martin said it is tough to determine how much snow may arrive above the forecast, until the system arrives.
“The meteorology is not there to be able to forecast that there’s going to be two feet of snow very much in advance,” he said. “But what we do through the event is we’re updating.”
At the time of this printing, local snowfall reports were not yet in to the National Weather Service. But winds as high as 51 mph were recorded at the Sand Creek Wildlife Refuge seven miles northwest of Amidon. Temps at the refuge were as low as 22 degrees.
The system was slow moving, and parts of North Dakota didn’t receive much snow, if any. As the storm moved, it stalled. And the center of the system was right over the Red River Valley and brought relatively warm temperatures (mid 40s) to that area and created rain showers. The east side of the state—Jamestown to Fargo—would have been in the eye when compared to a hurricane.
Martin said that comparing it to a hurricane was a good analogy. Just as hurricanes bring bands of rain, this system brought bands of snow.
“This low pressure system was so intense, that it actually had bands of snow set up,” he said.
Martin also added that the temperatures caused the bands to keep dumping snow over the course of the system.
For most of the central and western part of North Dakota, conditions were dire, but it could have been worse, according to Martin.
had it been 10 degrees cooler, the snow would have been lighter and wold have created complete white-out conditions in the area. It would have made the situation much worse than it was.
“The first half of the storm the snow was very, very wet, so it couldn’t blow or drift, it was just too heavy,” he said. “However bad it [was], it could have been much, much worse.”
Though the snow was heavy early on, Martin said that as the temperatures dropped it did produce much lighter snow fall.
The end of the snow doesn’t mean the end of typical North Dakota winter weather. Colder temperatures are expected for the area in the next few days.
Early next week, the forecast for high temperatures is only in the single digits. And the lows might bet in the single digits, below zero, and may be colder in areas with heavy snow.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if early next week, Tuesday [or] Wednesday, we hear of low temperatures of 20 below zero,” Martin said.