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Storm to bring ice, heavy snow, strong winds to North Dakota

The Bismarck region could see more than a foot of snow from a storm system barreling into the Plains, and potentially get a coating of ice beforehand.

Weather-related cancellations were beginning to mount on Monday afternoon, and state transportation officials warned of likely travel disruptions through midweek.

The National Weather Service on Monday posted a winter storm warning for the southern two-thirds of North Dakota from Monday evening to Thursday morning, with 8-15 inches of snow expected along with winds gusting to 40 mph. Forecasters said freezing rain could create ice accumulations up to one-tenth of an inch late Monday and early Tuesday in the Bismarck area before the heavy snow hits. Higher ice accumulations of up to half an inch were possible in the southeast.

“A potent area of low pressure is set to form over Colorado and Kansas Monday. This will pull moist air northward from the Gulf of Mexico, combining it with bitterly cold air from the polar regions in Canada,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Thomas Geiger explained. “With the two put together, a major snowstorm is in the cards from Colorado to Minnesota into midweek.” 

South central and most of eastern North Dakota have a “medium” chance of accumulating ice as the storm approaches, according to the weather service. That could make travel treacherous and lead to power outages.

Snowfall through Thursday is expected to total 10-13 inches in Bismarck and Dickinson, 8-12 inches in Williston, 9-11 inches in Minot, and 9-12 inches in Jamestown, according to weather service projections. Fargo and Grand Forks could see 7-10 inches.

There likely will be periods of snow, rather than continuous snowfall, according to Jason Anglin, lead forecaster at the weather service office in Bismarck. The snow might be interspersed with freezing drizzle at times, especially along and east of U.S. Highway 83.

“The heaviest snow, the bulk of what we’re going to get, is Tuesday night into Wednesday,” Anglin said.

Travel is likely to be hazardous across the state on Tuesday and Wednesday amid the snow and strong winds. Blowing snow is expected to continue Thursday and Friday even after the snowfall ends.

“This (system) does not want to move out quickly,” Anglin said.

Pierre and Rapid City, South Dakota, as well as Bismarck and Jamestown may have some of the region’s highest snow totals, AccuWeather Meteorologist Andrew Johnson-Levine reported. Western South Dakota was under a blizzard warning, as were parts of Nebraska, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming. Anglin said expected wind speeds in North Dakota are just below the blizzard threshold.

The system is a “Colorado low” — one that sweeps out of southeastern Colorado or northeastern New Mexico and tracks northeast across the Plains, producing big storms. Such systems are not uncommon this time of year. One that swept in about a month ago dropped 2-3 feet of snow on parts of North Dakota, and set a record for snowfall in Bismarck.

Flash flooding, severe hail and tornadoes are possible in the Southern Plains with this week’s sytem.

“This developing storm system will lead to numerous, widespread and impactful weather hazards in the heart of the country this week,” the weather service reported.

Storm impacts

The state Department of Transportation on Monday issued a statement urging motorists to be mindful of the likely poor traveling conditions in coming days.

“Motorists should be aware of rapidly changing conditions and are encouraged to reduce speeds and drive according to the conditions,” the agency said.

DOT postponed until Jan. 10 a public meeting that had been set Tuesday evening in Beulah on proposed improvements to state Highway 49, citing the storm.

The Bismarck Emergency Food Pantry on South 12th Street will be closed Tuesday.

Mandan’s “Holiday Lights on Main” display will be closed during the storm. The lights will turn on as scheduled, but access to Dykshoorn and Heritage parks on Main Street will be closed from 8 p.m. Monday through noon Thursday, Mandan Progress Organization Executive Director Matt Schanandore said.

Source: The Bismarck Tribune