Have there been a lot of blizzards this year? The answer is yes! There have been 5 official blizzards so far this winter season in the Grand Forks NWS County Warning Area. All of the blizzards this year have been ground blizzards, with little falling snow when winds were strong enough to produce the blizzard conditions. The first blizzard occurred on December 28, 2013 with the last blizzard on January 26, 2014. Therefore, all 5 blizzards this season have occurred in less than a month. The only other winter season with more blizzards in a month or less was the 1996-97 winter season when 7 blizzards occurred in about a month from December 17, 1996 through January 21, 1997. A blizzard is defined by the NWS as 3 consecutive hours of visibility less than one quarter of a mile with winds sustained, or frequent gusts, of 35 mph or higher.
Since blizzard records have been kept at the NWS in Grand Forks since the 1974-75 winter season, there have been 95 blizzards total in the Red River Valley. This averages out to slightly more than 2 blizzards per year, on average. There were 10 blizzards in the historic winter of 1996-97.
The majority of blizzards in the Red River Valley have occurred in January with 29, December has recorded 21 blizzards, with March at 17 events. There is a notable lull in February with 14 blizzard events, most likely from arctic high pressure that settles over the northern plains during the heart of the winter, thus bringing very cold air with lighter winds. This explains why we are now in a lull for blizzard events.
For those looking forward to Spring, it is comforting to know that we are out of the core of “blizzard season” of December and January, with 50 of the 95 total blizzards occurring during these months. While we can get blizzards into April, the chances decrease as we head towards Spring!