North Dakota Hit with Tornados, Record Rainfall, Blanket of Snow

October 15, 2021

North Dakota residents experienced a range of weather this week, with rare October tornadoes in the southeastern part of the state, an early season snowstorm in the west and record rainfall in Bismarck.

Preliminary reports indicate two tornadoes touched down on Wednesday, according to KFGO. One was about 5 miles (8 kilometers) west of Stirum about 4 p.m., and the other was 2 miles (3.2 kilometers) west of Wahpeton about an hour later. National Weather Service meteorologist Jim Kaiser said there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.

That brings the total number of tornadoes in the region to four this week. On Saturday, one confirmed tornado was reported southeast of Lidgerwood, and another was confirmed in Park Rapids, Minnesota.

The Bismarck area saw a record rainfall on Oct. 13. The National Weather Service in Bismarck reported on its Facebook page that 1.47 inches (3.73 centimeters) of rain was recorded at the airport, breaking the city’s Oct. 13 precipitation record of 0.97 inches (2.46 cm), which was set in 1940.

The rain caused interior flooding and the temporary closure of some exhibits at the North Dakota Heritage Center & State Museum, after a roof drain failed.

Meanwhile, the southwestern counties of Bowman, Slope and Golden Valley were under a winter storm warning, as the first snow fell for the season.

Beach Auditor Kimberly Gaugler said reports in northern Golden Valley County were as high as 8 inches (20 cm). She told the Bismarck Tribune that Beach received “very, very wet, heavy snow,” which is unusual for this time of year, especially since temperatures were around 70 to 80 degrees w week earlier.

“It’s melting as it’s hitting the streets and sidewalks,” Gaugler said of the snow. “There’s quite a bit of standing water.”

Strong winds led to near-blizzard conditions in the far west, reducing visibility and making travel difficult, according to the weather service.