Near white-out conditions reported in North Dakota during season's first major winter storm

The first major winter storm of the season is crippling parts of the northern Plains. The icy conditions brought down power lines and made travel treacherous.

BISMARCK, N.D. – A coating of ice followed by blinding snow across North Dakota had authorities advising against travel in the region Thursday.

The northern Plains' first major winter storm of the season started Wednesday night with freezing rain, or rain that freezes on contact. It coated roads and bridges in a glaze that was up to an inch thick in some places.


FOX Weather's Max Gorden said he had trouble getting to Bismarck, North Dakota, to cover the storm because of concerns about an icy runway at the airport.

All that ice was soon followed by heavy snow, which the National Weather Service reported was falling at a rate of nearly 2 inches an hour. Winds between 30 and 40 mph have been driving the snow and dropping visibilities to below a quarter-mile, creating near white-out conditions.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation issued No Travel Advisories for much of the state, including Bismarck. Icy roads were blamed for a pile-up on Interstate 94 overnight.


Snow plow drivers were busy trying to keep the roads clear for first responders.

"Currently, these plow drivers are just clearing emergency routes here in Bismarck because there's so much snow that's been falling," Gorden said. "There just aren't enough of them to clear every single road."

Zero visibility also closed stretches of I-94, U.S. Highway 83 and U.S. Highway 52.

The ice and snow weighed down power lines and branches. Nearly 3,000 homes and businesses were plunged into darkness at the height of the storm, according to That number had dropped to less than 200 by Thursday evening.


Over a foot of snow has already fallen in parts of North Dakota, and snow is expected to continue to fall through the night. A Blizzard Warning is in effect for half of the state until midnight.

Top snow totals.
(FOX Weather)


Thursday is officially the fourth-snowiest day on record for Bismarck, 134 years of recordkeeping. The airport has reported 15 inches, as of Thursday evening.

Even when the storm departs, the snow will stick around for a while. The FOX Weather Center said that temperatures will remain well below freezing through the weekend.

This storm didn't quite meet the criteria for it to be classified as a blizzard. To qualify, winds must blow at or above 35 mph and visibility must be below a quarter-mile for at least 3 hours.