North Dakota’s First Substantial Snowfall: Sooner Than You Think?
For 4 of the last 5 years in North Dakota, we have had early snowfalls.
Five years ago much of the state saw snowfall in late September. Four Autumns ago the same thing happened in North Dakota. Three years ago, not only did we see snow early, but it was a major blizzard. From October 10th to 13th 2019, the state saw anywhere from a foot to three feet over much of the state. Here in Bismarck, we officially saw around 17 inches of snow. This came right before the weekend of the pheasant opener in the state. Travel was pretty much at a standstill with exception of the far western portions of the state.
This record-breaking October blizzard certainly left its mark by the time the storm finally began moving out of the area on Sunday. Total snow accumulations as high as 36 inches were observed near Harvey with drifts over 10 feet tall. These drifts were as high as some homes. Snow drifts between one and two feet were common in central and eastern portions of North Dakota. Travel was just about impossible over much of the state as I-94, Highway 83, and other major highways were shut down because of the blizzard. Tree damage was also common, especially in eastern North Dakota where most trees had yet to shed all of their leaves. If you remember, the timing of this blizzard was terrible for the farming community. Very few crops were out of the ground due to the already wet Summer and Fall. This storm really delayed the Fall harvest, and in some cases, crops were not harvested until the Spring of 2020.
Last fall is the only fall over the last 5 years where we didn't have an early snow. In fact, rain fell on the pheasant opener and not snow. We didn't see a measurable snow event in Bismarck until November 11th, when we received just over an inch of snow.
When will we see our first snowfall in Bismarck and the rest of North Dakota in 2022?
That is always the million-dollar question. I'm not a meteorologist, I'm just a weather nerd but I have done my homework looking at the long-range models, and after chatting with the fine folks at the National Weather Service, here's what I came up with.
We really only have two chances for precipitation in October. Slight chance this Saturday and a significant 3-day system from October 16th to October 18th. High temps will be in the 50s and lows in the mid-30s. Probably a little too warm for flakes. However, mid-October is a long way out, so this system bears watching. Still, something tells me we will get out of that without breaking out the shovels.
Does that mean we're looking at another November first snow? I think so, and at this point, it looks like it will be much like last year. A non-event with just an inch or two of snow.
My fearless prediction for the Bismarck Mandan's first snowfall will be November 15th.
Again, probably much like last year's first snow with just an inch or so. November doesn't look all that promising for big snow events in general and warmer than average temperatures. You might have to wait for December or even January if you want some significant snowfalls over North Dakota.
In the meantime, enjoy the fall colors and the warmer-than-average fall. Don't worry, winter will get here soon enough.
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