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Storm system to bring rain, wind and some snow to North Dakota

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101221-nws-autumn-trail

The Missouri River State Natural Area just east of Mandan tucked between the interstate and the river spans 157 acres and has nearly 5 miles of trails for a casual walk or bike ride while taking in the autumn scenery. The area is open year-round with well-maintained trails that also are used by cross country skiers in the winter. The natural area is managed by the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department. Monday's sunny and relatively warm weather will be pushed out later this week by a storm system bringing heavy rain, gusty winds and possibly even some snow to western North Dakota. 

Snow is in the North Dakota forecast for the first time this fall, just a week after record heat sent temperatures soaring into the 90s.

It's unlikely that most areas will see any significant snow, though, and any that falls and sticks around likely won't last too long. But this week's forecast also calls for heavy rainfall, strong winds and cooler temperatures, including a killing frost -- 28 degrees or below -- for parts of western North Dakota.

All of which is not unusual for this time of year, but it's a dramatic shift from the heat of the past couple of weeks that set several records in western cities including Bismarck. Dickinson just two weeks ago reached 100 degrees -- more than 50 degrees warmer than the city's expected high this Tuesday.

"It's October -- it comes with the territory," weather service Meteorologist Nathan Heinert said.

The storm system will push from the West Coast over the Rockies and into the Plains, with the main impacts in North Dakota hitting Tuesday and Tuesday night, according to Heinert. Rainfall totaling up to 2 inches will be widespread from Monday night through Thursday night, and the wind on Wednesday could gust up to 40 mph, making travel difficult for high-profile vehicles.

The moisture will follow significant rainfall over the weekend -- Bismarck got more than an inch, and some areas such as Oakes and Carson got as much as 3 inches. The rain will cut into the prolonged drought in North Dakota but won't solve it. Bismarck, for example, has received only a little over 9 inches of precipitation this year -- more than 7 ½ inches below normal, according to weather service data.

"That last (rain) event helps a lot, and this event will help us a lot too," Heinert said. But "the drought is still there. The rain is going to help, but it's still going to take a few more events like this to get us out of the hole."

Heavy snowfall is expected in the Rockies from the storm system, and eastern Montana could even see several inches, according to Accuweather. Heavy snowfall this time of year also isn't out of the realm of possibility for North Dakota -- an Oct. 9-12 blizzard two years ago dropped nearly 17 inches of snow on Bismarck-Mandan.

That won't happen this week, but parts of western North Dakota could see a rain-snow mix on Tuesday and Wednesday, and some accumulating snow might fall in higher elevations of the southwest late Wednesday into Thursday, according to Heinert.

"Mainly grassy areas -- we're not expecting any travel impacts with this," Heinert said, adding that Thursday temps are expected to climb into the 40s and "anything out there will probably be melting."

But overnight lows Thursday and Friday in the west are expected to drop into the mid-to-upper 20s, according to the state forecast. Lows for the Bismarck-Mandan area are expected to stay above 30 degrees, however, and the weekend forecast is for sunny skies with highs in the upper 50s and lower 60s.

"Temperatures will start to rebound as we head into the weekend, back into more normal, seasonal values," Heinert said.

Reach Blake Nicholson at 701-250-8266 or blake.nicholson@bismarcktribune.com.

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