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The week before Christmas, global weather models were in remarkable agreement with regards to a major winter storm developing around Christmas somewhere in the Northern Plains. Run to run model consistency led to higher confidence than usual for heavy snowfall accumulations and strong winds across most of western and central North Dakota. Because of the higher confidence and an approaching holiday weekend, the Bismarck NWS office, along with other neighboring offices, issued blizzard watches and warnings well before the typical time frame. The GFS model in particular was suggesting record precipitable water values in the forecast sounding over Bismarck. High precipitable water values over the region during the snowfall season means a higher abundance of available moisture than usual. In general, most locations across western and central North Dakota received anywhere from 12 to 18 inches of snow with isolated higher amounts. However, in the southeast part of the Bismarck forecast area (Stutsman, Dickey, LaMoure, McIntosh, Emmons, and Logan Counties), heavy freezing rain caused major ice accumulations which created widespread power outages and numerous downed trees. Gusty winds up to 60 mph, heavy snow/ice accumulations, and extreme snow drifts created very difficult, if not impossible, travel until well into the day of 12/27/2017. Finally, this storm was so intense that it generated quite a bit of "thundersnow" over parts of central North Dakota.

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NWS Bismarck Weather Story on the Morning of 12/25/2016 Highest Snowfall Total Years Through the Month of December First NWS Bismarck Weather Story About a Potential Winter Storm, Posted on 12/19/2016


Extreme Snow Drifts and Blizzard Conditions in Bismarck, North Dakota (Photo Courtesy of Zachary Hargrove)


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