A blizzard bearing down on North Dakota promises to push Bismarck’s season snowfall total to a record

Blizzard North Dakota
Blizzard North Dakota. via Youtube video

The storm forecast to hit early Tuesday and last into early Thursday could drop 9-15 inches of snow on the capital city, according to the National Weather Service. Bismarck so far this season has received 95.4 inches of snow — the third-snowiest winter on record, and just 6.3 inches from a new high.

Records date back 148 years. Bismarck’s all-time mark is 101.6 inches in 1996-97.

The city is right on the edge between a high potential and medium potential for at least a foot of snow this week. “Major” storm impacts are expected in Bismarck all day Tuesday, intensifying to “extreme” impacts overnight into Wednesday, with “major” impacts again all day Wednesday before the storm weakens to “moderate” impacts overnight into early Thursday.

“Travel will be impossible, probably, during these major impact times,” said Matt Johnson, a weather service meteorologist in Bismarck.

The Linton and Ashley areas to the southeast of Bismarck and the James River Valley could see nearly 2 feet of snow, according to forecasters. To the west, 5-10 inches of snow is expected in the Dickinson region, and 8-15 inches could fall in the Elgin area.

There is likely to be a “sharp cutoff” between heavy snow accumulations and lighter amounts somewhere in the western and north central portions of North Dakota, according to Johnson.

“It’s a pretty slam dunk for the southern James River Valley,” he said, adding that the highest snowfall accumulations are expected there, “with some of that bleeding into the south central portion of the state.”

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The weather service issued a blizzard warning for all but northwestern North Dakota, with the eastern part of the state also expecting major impacts from the storm. It’s another Colorado low, a system that sweeps out of southeastern Colorado or northeastern New Mexico and tracks northeast across the Plains, producing big storms.

Winds could gust as high as 60 mph, whipping the snow into drifts several feet high in many areas. Winds will start out of the northeast, shift to the north around Wednesday, then transition to the northwest, according to Johnson.

“We do expect snowdrifts to be moved around quite a bit as wind directions change,” he said.

The heaviest snowfall is expected Tuesday afternoon into Wednesday morning, according to Johnson. Travel impacts are likely to linger into Thursday, he said.

AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Joe Lundberg called the pending storm “a classic spring blizzard.”

“A large temperature contrast between arctic air coming in from the north and warm air from the south will feed the storm and cause it to deepen rapidly and generate powerful winds on Tuesday,” he said. “Where that interacts with the heavy snow to the northwest of the storm’s track, it will result in extremely poor visibility for hours on end due to blowing snow.”

High temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday statewide are forecast only in the teens and 20s, with Bismarck-Mandan expected to be in the lower 20s during the day. Normal for this time of year is a high in the lower 50s.

Prolonged cold last month led to monthly records in Bismarck, Dickinson and Jamestown. All three cities had their lowest average high temperature for March on record — 41 for Dickinson, 37 for Jamestown and 38 for Bismarck, according to the National Weather Service. The capital city’s record broke a mark set in 1876, nearly 150 years ago.

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Temperatures in the 20s in coming days are much lower than normal, but they’re considered warm when it comes to snowfall. That means “We are expecting a wet, heavy snow, so it will be hard to move,” Johnson said.


Weather-related cancellation announcements mounted as Monday went along.

Both Bismarck Public Schools and Mandan Public Schools announced that schools would be closed Tuesday, with virtual learning scheduled.

Bismarck State College announced the campus would shut down Tuesday, with all classes and events canceled.

The University of Mary as of Monday evening had not made a decision on any weather-related moves.

United Tribes Technical College and Theodore Jamerson Elementary School on the Bismarck campus will close at noon Tuesday and remain shut down Wednesday, with the elementary school having virtual learning that day.

The 2023 North Dakota Travel Industry Conference scheduled Monday evening through Wednesday in Bismarck was postponed, according to the state Tourism Division. The North Dakota Future Business Leaders of America 56th annual State Leadership Conference, which began Sunday at the Bismarck Event Center, was shortened from three days to two, according to FBLA State Chair Jessica DeVaal.

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The state Public Service Commission canceled an abandoned mine lands public hearing scheduled in Dickinson on Tuesday. However, the PSC plans to hold scheduled public hearings at noon and 5 p.m. Central time Wednesday on a proposed electric rate increase by Montana-Dakota utilities. The hearing can be viewed online at https://psc.nd.gov/public/meetings/live.php. People wanting to comment via phone can call 701-328-4081 to be placed on a callback list.

The National Weather Service ironically postponed storm spotter training scheduled Monday night in Dickinson.

The DoorDash online food ordering and delivery service announced it will suspend operations in Bismarck, Dickinson and Jamestown from 6 a.m. CT Tuesday until at least 6 a.m. Thursday.

In other news, this tornado outbreak will be different

[Bismarck Tribune]

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  1. The anticipation of record-breaking snowfall in Bismarck brings a sense of excitement and wonder. Imagining the intense snowfall and powerful winds evokes a mix of awe and joy. The descriptions of canceled events and closed schools due to the storm highlight the significant impact it will have on the community. I can’t help but wonder how people in North Dakota are preparing for this “classic spring blizzard.”

  2. Sheesh break out the flame throwers and backhoe. Been through six days of no power and no services. Used candles, blankets, and read books waiting for city to be able to get to our area. Cut off pieces venison, and used a butane torch to cook meat on a skewer. Dog liked that part.

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