An Alberta clipper sailed past the Williston area, and left a pile of heavy, wet snow in its wake.
The word clipper harks back to the fast sailing ships of the middle 19th century, but in weather parlance, it refers to a fast-moving, low-pressure weather system. These generally affect the central provinces in Canada, but they can, and often do, dip down into the Upper Midwest as well, causing a sudden temperature drop, sharp winds, and, in this case, dump-truck loads of precipitation.
Watford City scored the most precipitation in the northwestern North Dakota area at 7 inches, followed by Tioga at 4.5 inches and Williston at 3.5 inches.
Wind caused whiteout conditions on Highway 2 from Minot to Tioga, prompting the state to issue a no-travel advisory in the region. Police in Williston responded to 10 accidents Friday, two of them hit and runs.
The hit-and-run accidents are still under investigation. Details as to when and where they occurred were unavailable pending that.
Sgt. Detective Danielle Hendricks, with the Williston Police Department, said there were no injuries reported with any of the accidents.
Temperatures had reached a high of 33 degrees late Friday afternoon, and weren’t expected to get much higher than that before dropping again. Earlier predictions were for a high of up to 39, which could have cleared a substantial portion of snow away, but that never materialized.
The latest dose of snow puts the Williston area at 1.56 inches of precipitation since Jan. 1, which is one-tenth of an inch above normal, year-to-date.
How useful that moisture is going to be for the spring planting season depends on whether the area gets a slow melt, and some gentle rain once the ground begins to thaw.
Ken Simosko, meteorologist for the National Weather Service, said the ground in Williston is still frozen, according to sensor data. That frozen soil is still very dry, having gone into winter off a drought.
“Hopefully all this doesn’t disappear before the ground thaws,” Simosko said. “So we get at least some infiltration into the ground.”
The long-range forecast is calling for a high of up to 39 degrees Saturday, but that will be short-lived, as another storm system will pass through the area Saturday night.
That could be snow or rain, depending on temperatures, but Simosko suggested the odds favor rain.
“Sunday night, it looks like that system will stay just south of you, but you might get a little rain and snow in the afternoon,” he said. “But nothing really heavy at this point.”
The high Monday is predicted to be 37, and 42 on Tuesday. It’ll drop back down to the upper 30s on Wednesday. Light snow is possible Tuesday night, and there is a chance for some other weak storm systems throughout the week.