BISMARCK (AP) - A white Christmas is a safe bet in North Dakota, the National Weather Service says.
"It's going to be hard to melt all this snow by Christmas, with all the arctic air," said meteorologist Joshua Scheck, at the National Weather Service office in Bismarck.
Temperatures early today were expected to hit 15 below to 20 below in western and central North Dakota, with wind chill factors at 50 below, he said.
The eastern part of the state is expected to be only slightly warmer, with temperatures in the "the negative teens with a wind chill of minus 30," he said.
December snowfall totals in Bismarck through Saturday nearly matched the 19.3-inch mark set for all of last winter, Scheck said. Bismarck tallied a total of 31.6 inches of snow before today, the first day of winter.
"The thing about North Dakota is that it's extreme," Scheck said. "For several years we haven't had an aggressive winter like this.
"And it's not even the first day of winter yet," he said Saturday.
Grand Forks got about 5 inches of snow early Saturday and Fargo reported about an inch less, said meteorologist Jim Kaiser, at the National Weather Service in Grand Forks. The snow had begun to taper off Saturday, he said
Wind gusts of about 25 mph in parts of eastern North Dakota reduced visibility on Saturday to less than 1 mile, he said.
Scheck said the southwest part of the state should get the first reprieve from bitter cold temperatures.
"It could break the freezing mark there by Christmas Day," he said.