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Arctic mass prompts extreme cold, closures

By Staff | Jan 10, 2014

Bryce Berginski/PCT The temperature on the Bremer Bank clock read 23 degrees on Thursday morning. It is a sharp contrast compared to double digit below zero temperatures and wind chills earlier this week.

According to a climate summary from the National Weather Service, average temperatures last month at all major climate sites across western and central North Dakota were colder than usual. But earlier this week, temperatures were even colder than that.

At Minot-the nearest major climate site to Rugby – last month there was a 12 degree difference between the normal temperature (averaged between 1981 and 2010) and the observed temperature (which was at about 4), making it the fifth coldest observed temperature shift on record. Areas of Pierce County experienced anywhere from -8 to less than -10, on average.

With the exception of the Bismarck and Williston sites, December 2013 was also drier than normal at most major climate sites. At Minot, the normal amount of precipitation was approximately .4 inches, but last month approximately .2 inches fell. In Pierce County, where areas of precipitation range from .3 inches to just over an inch of snow, on average, there was a .45 inch departure from normal in December 2013.

This past week not only was the temperature cold, but wind chills were enough to force schools to close on Monday. On Sunday, Jan. 5, the wind chill was colder than -50. The next day fared only slightly better, with the wind chill colder than -30 by nightfall. Wind chill on Tuesday was predominately in the -30 to -20 range.

According to Michael Mathews of the National Weather Service office in Bismarck, a huge factor in double digit below zero temperatures, and even colder double digit below zero wind chills, was a massive cold air mass from the Arctic that was looming over the state.

Later in the week temperatures started to slightly warm up. Today high temperatures for the Pierce County area are expected to be in the 20’s.

But as winter progresses, it’s possible another cold spell could be on the horizon.

“We’re still in winter. We’re not out of the woods yet for an extreme cold outbreak,” Mathews said.

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