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Sweltering weekend sets records in North Dakota; 'heat dome' sets stage for storms

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Impermanent pool

Killian Stisser, 8, wades across a low-lying part of Lions Park submerged in water from a thunderstorm that hit the Bismarck area early Monday. The National Weather Service recorded just over half an inch of rain at the Bismarck Airport, but the office also received reports of 1.68 inches at Fort Abraham Lincoln State Park and 1.59 inches near the state Capitol.

Excessive heat that blanketed North Dakota over the weekend sent temperatures into the triple digits in some areas including Bismarck, breaking records across the state and setting the stage for severe storms.

A northward bulge in the jet stream kept the extreme heat over much of the Plains on Saturday and Sunday, creating what AccuWeather Meteorologist Mary Gilbert called a "heat dome." Temperatures in the Upper Midwest were 15-25 degrees above normal, she reported.

High temperature records for June 19 fell or were tied from west to east in North Dakota on Sunday, according to the National Weather Service. They included:

  • Bismarck, 100 degrees, breaking 1933 record of 97.
  • Fargo, 101, tying record set in 1933.
  • Grand Forks, 100, beating 1995 record of 95.
  • Minot, 97, beating 1911 record of 96.
  • Jamestown, 97, tying record set in 1933.

Jamestown and Dickinson on Saturday had record-high minimum temperatures. The mercury didn't drop below 65 degrees in Dickinson and below 71 degrees in Jamestown. The previous records were 64 degrees in Dickinson in 1988 and 69 degrees in Jamestown in 2005.

The heat also brought with it moist air from the Gulf of Mexico, increasing the humidity level and making it feel even hotter -- a measurement known as heat index.

The normal high and low for Bismarck this time of year is 79 and 54 degrees. Cooler air moving in from the north will bring more seasonal temperatures to the region early this week, according to James Telken, a weather service meteorologist in Bismarck.

The start of the workweek has been a stormy one in many areas, however.

"The heat with all the moisture in it was kind of a primer for instability" in the atmosphere, Telken said.

An early Monday storm that ripped through Bismarck-Mandan dropped penny-size hail and as much as 1.5 inches of rain in Bismarck and 1.73 inches in the Mandan area, according to weather service reports. Reported wind gusts reached 75 mph.

There were reports of downed trees and tree limbs throughout the metro area, as well as flash flooding in Mandan bad enough to pop off manhole covers, Telken said.

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A large cottonwood tree in the Countryside Mobile Home Park in Mandan was toppled by a severe thunderstorm that hit the area early Monday. During the storm the Mandan Airport recorded wind speeds of 75 mph. There was no damage to any of the neighboring homes to the vacant lot.

Electricity needs

Hot weather has hit much of the country in the past week and will continue in many areas this week, giving air conditioning equipment a workout.

"Energy demands will be exceptionally high this upcoming week across portions of the Plains and Midwest, stressing area power grids and putting an additional pinch on residents’ checkbooks," AccuWeather Meteorologist Brandon Buckingham said.

The Midwest Independent System Operator, which manages one of the two power grids in North Dakota, recently issued an advisory saying rolling blackouts are possible this summer because of predicted heat and the need to manage electricity demand.

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Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak chairs the three-member PSC, which regulates utilities such as natural gas and electricity and permits new energy infrastructure.

North Dakota Public Service Commission Chair Julie Fedorchak told Prairie Public that she doesn't think the state will be affected, however.

"MISO's general manager told me, 'Just because where you're situated, shedding load isn't going to help with where things are tight,'" Fedorchak said. "And North Dakota has so much dispatchable generation, we're not going to be short."

"Dispatchable generation" refers to power sources that can be ramped up on demand to supply more power.

"We'll be generating the power everybody else needs," Fedorchak said.

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

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