March 31, 2014 Blizzard

The most notable winter storm of the 2013-2014 cold season for most of North Dakota was the blizzard and heavy snow event on March 31, 2014.  The one exception to that statement would be a small portion of southwestern North Dakota that was hit with an even stronger blizzard in October 2013.

Wind gusts over 50 mph were recorded in Valley City, Fargo, Emerado, Cooperstown and at the Grand Forks Air Force Base. All of those gusts were recorded at airports where the wind is measured at 33 feet (10 meters).  The maximum wind gust recorded across the North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network (NDAWN) are presented below. The wind is measured at a height of 10 feet (3 meters) on NDAWN sensors, yet even at the lower height that usually records lesser wind speeds due to increased surface friction, several sites did have gusts to or near 50 mph as well.

 

Maximum Wind Gust March 31, 2014

Maximum Wind Gust March 31, 2014

 

That severe wind in combination of heavy snow in excess of 10 inches in some locations produced drifts over 6 feet.  Many roads were closed, including Interstate 29 from the North Dakota/South Dakota line to Canada and Interstate 94 from Fargo to Bismarck because of near zero visibility being reported.

The highest snowfall fell in a band from the southwestern to northeastern corners of the state. The highest snow amount was an estimated 20 inches in Grafton. That was the highest daily total of record for that location.  A large area from southwestern through northeastern North Dakota reported snow totals in the 6 to 12 inch range.

 

March 31 2014 Blizzard Snow Totals

March 31 2014 Blizzard Snow Totals

 

An examination of composite radar from that event clearly shows the main band of snow setting up along that corridor.  The series of images below are from 8:00 AM to 12:00 AM CDT from March 31, 2014.

8AM

8 AM Radar Image for North Dakota and surrounding states and provinces.

10AM

10 AM Radar Image for North Dakota and surrounding states and provinces.

Noon

12 PM Radar Image for North Dakota and surrounding states and provinces.

2PM

2:00 PM Radar Image for North Dakota and surrounding states and provinces.

4PM

4 PM Radar Image for North Dakota and surrounding states and provinces. 

6PM

6:00 PM Radar Image for North Dakota and surrounding states and provinces.

8PM

8 PM Radar Image for North Dakota and surrounding states and provinces. 

10 PM

10:00 PM Radar Image for North Dakota and surrounding states and provinces.

Midnight

12:00 AM (Midnight) Radar Image for North Dakota and surrounding states and provinces.

 

The storm was a classic mid-latitude cyclone.  A tweet I made last year during the storm showed that the central pressure at the time of the tweet was 29.23 inches of mercury as it was centered near Sioux Falls.  It was in the typical NW sector of the cyclone that the main snow band fell.

March 31 Blizzard Surface

Tweet of the the Storm

On visible satellite the storm also exhibited the classic comma shape with a large dry slot through eastern South Dakota into southwestern Minnesota.  This track also lead to the lesser amounts in the southern Red River Valley as well as the lack of snow in northwestern and north central portions of North Dakota where drier air from an area of high pressure in Canada kept the snow away.

Visible Satellite Imagery for 10:15 AM CDT on March 31, 2015

Visible Satellite Imagery for 10:15 AM CDT on March 31, 2015

The day after the event (April 1, 2014) the storm was well northeast of the state and the sky had cleared.  Below is a visible image of North Dakota at 3:15 PM CDT.  Because the sky was clear, everything white in the image below would be the fresh snowfall from the snow storm from the day before.

Visible Satellite image from April 1, 2014 at 3:15 PM

Visible Satellite image from April 1, 2014 at 3:15 PM

 

The March 31, 2014 Blizzard was the most severe of the winter of 2013-2014 for all but the southwestern portion of North Dakota when wind and snow totals are taken into account.   It was certainly not any thing extraordinarily impressive from a historical stand point, with the exception of some locations in Walsh County, but it was certainly a storm to be remembered.

Daryl Ritchison