A powerful clipper that ripped into western North Dakota late Wednesday struck Minot with a fury that continued well into Thursday. Residents listening to howling winds throughout the dark night woke up to expectations of visible damage as soon as daylight arrived.
Although damage throughout the city and the region may not have been as bad as many might have expected, the storm still left plenty of evidence of its harshness in its path.
A large billboard and two large support poles were toppled onto two vehicles in the parking lot of the Ranger Lounge on South Broadway. Roofing material lifted off the Landing Bar on North Broadway. Several traffic signals in the city needed attention from repair crews after constant swaying in the relentless winds.
This billboard was toppled by a powerful clipper that struck the Minot region late Wednesday night and lasted into Thursday. Two vehicles were pinned by the large support poles. No one was injured.
Work crews arriving at the old snow removal building at the Minot Airport Thursday morning were surprised to discover the wind did substantial damage to the roof. Several Thursday morning incoming flights to the Minot Airport were canceled due to the extreme wind. Throughout the city branches, debris and garbage were strewn about. An unknown number of ice houses at Lake Darling were overturned during the storm and strewn across the ice.
"We've had a series of clipper systems for the last 10 days or so, but this one, by far, was the strongest one," said Bill Abeling, National Weather Service, Bismarck. "It had peak winds of 75 miles per hour. It was a very potent system, one of the strongest clipper systems I've seen in awhile."
According to the NWS, Garrison recorded the highest wind gusts in the state as of 11 a.m. Thursday 75 mph. The Minot Air Force Base recorded a gust of 71 mph and the Minot Airport 67 mph.
In some areas the winds were accompanied by snowfall or caused blowing snow to create white-out conditions. The Minot office of the State Patrol issued a "No Travel Advisory" for a period Thursday morning. The conditions led to a semi-trailer entering the ditch near Logan and a few other vehicles doing the same, but such accidents were limited likely due to the early issuance of high wind and blizzard warnings by the NWS which were heeded by the traveling public.
A few power outages were reported in the area, although not all of them could be directly attributed to the windy conditions. Tom Rafferty of Verendrye Electric said, "We've had just little things here and there. Nothing major."
A spokesman for Xcel Energy acknowledged a power outage affected approximately 225 customers in the State Fairgrounds area for several hours during the night. While customer owned equipment was believed to be the cause of the outage, repairs were complicated by the strong winds.
No cause was given for a power outage in the Fairfield Inn area on Minot's south side that lasted from about midnight Wednesday to approximately 6:15 a.m. Thursday, but the outage coincides with some of the highest wind gusts reported in the area.
"What happens is, a cold pool of Canada air mixes with warmer U.S. air and the clipper system transfers momentum down to the ground," explained Abeling. "This particular clipper had winds about 80 miles per hour at the 2,000 to 3,000 foot level. That's unusual. Usually 30 or 40 miles per hour is a pretty brisk wind at that layer. When it got to the ground it was 70 or 75 mile per hour gusts. It is always tricky trying to forecast the winds in these clippers."
Strong winds were still present in the Minot region late Thursday while blizzard conditions swept across eastern North Dakota. Visibility from Valley City to Fargo was said to be zero Thursday afternoon. The NWS issued a blizzard warning for the eastern third of the state.
According to Abeling, the system of clippers that has rocked the region has not yet blown itself out. Another clipper is on the way.
"There's another one coming Friday night into Saturday," said Abeling. "Fortunately, it doesn't look as strong as the last one. Winds of 25 to 40 miles per hour are expected to be coming through."