- Associated Press - Monday, January 5, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - The first full work week of the new year in the Dakotas began with bitter cold and heavy snow, as a weather system swept in from Canada.

Temperatures hovered in the minus-20s and minus-30s, with the wind chill factor, early Monday in much of the two states. The temperature was recorded at minus-48 in the northern North Dakota city of Belcourt.

That degree of cold can cause frostbite to exposed skin within a matter of minutes, but “up here, where we’re at, we’re used to it,” said Jake McCloud, assistant manager of the Utter Stop convenience store in Belcourt. “We don’t get too many (customers) who complain.”

However, McCloud said Belcourt’s schools opened a couple of hours later than usual to allow the temperatures to rise, and “we do see a lot of people who stay indoors.”

In South Dakota, dozens of schools closed early on Monday because of snow. Sioux Falls, South Dakota, closed its community centers and outdoor skating rinks and warming houses.

The National Weather Service posted numerous weather warnings and advisories, with half a foot of snow or more expected from northwestern North Dakota to southeastern South Dakota. Strong winds were forecast to blow the snow around and make traveling treacherous into Tuesday. The bitter cold was expected to linger into Wednesday.

“If you don’t have to travel for the next few days, I wouldn’t,” said Mike Gillispie, a weather service meteorologist in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. “Road conditions are going to be deteriorating very rapidly. If you don’t have to be out and about, it’s a good time to stay indoors.”

Dwight Cook, a North Dakota state senator from Mandan, got in last-minute pheasant hunting with friends before the season ended this weekend, despite a wind chill factor that made it feel like 30 below zero.

“It didn’t stop us from bagging roosters,” Cook said while preparing for Tuesday’s start of the 2014 Legislature in Bismarck. “We’re from North Dakota. It doesn’t matter what the weather. You deal with it.”

A travel alert was issued Monday afternoon for the North Dakota cities of Bismarck, Mandan, Steele, Washburn, New Salem and Linton.

Fast-moving systems with snow, wind and cold that push into the region from the Canadian Rockies are called Alberta clippers. A series of them swept into the Northern Plains in January 2014, resulting in five blizzards in eastern North Dakota during the month.

The long-range forecast doesn’t call for a repeat this year, but the first clipper of the year will be bad enough, said Michael Mathews, a weather service meteorologist in Bismarck.

“This is going to be the lighter-variety snow that will blow around nicely,” he said. “If an area happens to get even an inch or two, you’re certainly going to have blowing snow and reduced visibilities.”

Mathews also cautioned that bare skin can freeze within five minutes in such extreme cold.

“Snow and cold is the story,” he said.


Associated Press writers James MacPherson in Bismarck, North Dakota, and Dave Kolpack in Fargo, North Dakota, contributed to this report.

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