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Blizzard Warning in effect for southwest ND with wind chills as low as -55°F

As the Western Edge prepare to celebrate the holiday season, winter storms usher frigid temps, heavy snows

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A “No travel” advisory remains in place for southwest North Dakota as near-zero visibility, icy roads and scattered snow drifts are causing serious safety concerns.
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DICKINSON — As millions of Americans across the country prepare to celebrate the holiday season, a dangerous winter storm is ushering frigid temperatures and heavy snow to central and northern states. The National Weather Service has issued wind chill alerts for over 100 million people, stretching from the Canadian border to the Mexican border and into parts of the Southeast and Northeast, even as far south as Florida.

In Dickinson, a Blizzard Warning is in effect until 6 a.m. MST on Friday, with ground blizzard conditions and winds gusting as high as 50 mph expected. A Wind Chill Warning has also been issued and will remain in effect until Noon MST on Saturday, with wind chills dropping as low as 55 below zero. The National Weather Service advises residents to stay indoors as much as possible and to dress in layers if they must go outside, as widespread blowing snow is expected to significantly reduce visibility and make travel dangerous.

Dickinson snow removal
Dickinson Streets Supervisor Scott Hirning blows snow near the intersection of State Avenue and 21st Street West.
Jason O'Day / The Dickinson Press

The weather pattern hitting the area is being described as a, "once-in-a-generation bomb cyclone” event by the National Weather Service. A bomb cyclone is a meteorological term used to describe a rapidly strengthening storm system. It occurs when there is a rapid drop of at least 24 millibars of atmospheric pressure within a 24 hour period.

As the winter storm approaches, it is important for residents to stay informed about the latest weather forecasts and to take necessary precautions to stay safe. Those who must venture out are advised to check the latest road conditions and to bring a winter survival kit with them, including blankets, warm clothing and other supplies in case of emergencies.

A “No travel” advisory remains in place for southwest North Dakota as near-zero visibility, icy roads and scattered snow drifts are causing serious safety concerns. The North Dakota Department of Transportation and North Dakota Highway Patrol have closed Interstate 94 from the Montana border to Bismarck until further notice.

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Several roads south of I-94 are considered blocked or impassible in the southwest portion of the state. Conditions are not expected to improve overnight and motorists are not allowed to travel on a closed road due to life threatening conditions. Motorists should not use GPS to access secondary roads to avoid road closures, as many secondary roads could become blocked or impassable due to the significant snowfall and high winds creating severe snow drifts on the highways.

“Mother Nature is brutal!” A North Dakota Department of Transportation spokesperson said via the department’s social media page. “Brine, sand and salt do not make a dent in ice at these extreme temps. We're scraping as much as we can while continuing to fight the snow.”

The post added, “Remember: go slow and don't overdrive the conditions. We will likely be battling compacted ice throughout the weekend. The tide will turn once the temperature rises above 10 degrees.”

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Traveling on gravel and dirt roads after heavy snowfall is not recommended.
Josiah C. Cuellar / The Dickinson Press

Due to hazardous weather and travel conditions, many area businesses have closed up shop and are hunkering down until the storm passes. Stark County, the Dickinson Public Library, Dickinson Museum Center and Badlands Dinosaur Museums, and the city hall offices have been closed to the public until further notice.

Road conditions in the City of Dickinson continue to deteriorate, despite the best efforts of the city’s street department, resulting in Dickinson Police Department cautioning residents to avoid unnecessary travel.

“Weather and road conditions can deteriorate rapidly. We ask citizens to use extreme caution when traveling and only to travel if absolutely necessary,” Lt. Michael Hanel, Dickinson Police Department, said. “Ensure your vehicle is fueled, cell phone is charged and you have a winter survival kit that includes water and extra clothing. The safest thing to do, however, is to stay put and let the storm pass.”

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A Blizzard Warning is in effect until 6 a.m. MST on Friday, with ground blizzard conditions and winds gusting as high as 50 mph expected. A Wind Chill Warning has also been issued and will remain in effect until Noon MST on Saturday, with wind chills dropping as low as 55 below zero.
North Dakota Department of Transportation file

Dickinson Fire Chief Jeremy Presnell said that the department’s top priority remains to ensure the safety of the community during this ongoing blizzard and cautioned residents on responsibly minimizing the risks of fire.

Space heaters are a common source of household fires, particularly during the winter months when they are used more frequently. According to the National Fire Protection Association, space heaters are the leading cause of house fires in the United States, accounting for nearly one-third of all residential fires. Fires can be caused by a variety of factors, including improper placement, overloaded electrical outlets and failure to follow manufacturer's instructions.

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“With the extreme cold many residents may be using space heaters to warm their homes. If you have to use electric space heaters, make sure they have automatic shut-off switches and non-glowing elements,” he said. “Make sure to keep them away from combustible materials, like curtains or blankets.”

As the winter storm continues to impact Dickinson, area first responders noted the importance of residents staying up to date with the latest weather information and taking necessary precautions to ensure their safety.

In case of emergency, residents should call 9-1-1. For non-emergency assistance, residents can also contact the Dickinson Fire Department at (701) 456-7625, or the Dickinson Police Department at (701) 456-7759.

Up-to-date weather information can be found online at thedickinsonpress.com or weather.gov/bis/ , and additional information on road conditions throughout North Dakota can be had by calling 511 or visiting the ND Roads map at travel.dot.nd.gov.

James B. Miller, Jr. is the Editor of The Dickinson Press in Dickinson, North Dakota. He strives to bring community-driven, professional and hyper-local focused news coverage of southwest North Dakota.
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