The record-breaking early November North Dakota tornado outbreak

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It was 21 years ago this week that a Bismarck neighborhood was lined with debris from a tornado outbreak… and as wild as that sounds, the story gets much more dramatic than this.

Wind, rain, snow, tornadoes… it all happened in our state on November 1st of 2000… and it all started on a Wednesday morning in early November. A system, called a Colorado Low, was moving in. This is a larger low-pressure system that can often bring a lot of rain or snow and high wind… and it really depended on where you were in the state that day as to what your impacts were going to be.

In south-central North Dakota, we started off with a relatively warm Wednesday morning… the low in Bismarck that day was great for November 1st. It was 45 degrees when folks got up to start the day. The high later on was 60. So even though rain was in the forecast, it was a warm treat to have the 60s this time of year.

But that warmth and a little dry air moving into the region was the culprit behind a disastrous afternoon.
The chances for storms were there… but severe weather wasn’t anticipated much less tornadoes. That dry air being brought in from the SE coupled with pockets of sun fired up the atmosphere. It was at 2:33 PM when the first tornado was reported.

In all, five tornadoes touched down around the greater Bismarck/Mandan area. There were two injuries with forty-two homes sustaining mild to moderate damage. One of those tornadoes moved through a Bismarck neighborhood… one of our KX News directors, Seth Farstveet, lived on the street it ripped through and he told me he remembers debris lining the streets and a van completely smashed.

All of the tornadoes that day were rated between an F zero and F two. Only one of those was an F 2 – that was the one that did the property damage in Bismarck. They were rated before the days of the EF scale.

But while there were tornadoes in central North Dakota… folks along the Montana border were dealing with blizzard conditions from that same massive storm.

Snow combined with wind gusts up to 50 MPH reduced visibility and shut down many roads. There was a tour bus accident in Bowman County that seriously injured a number of people. The exact number of injured is unknown at this time. Power outages were widespread. The snow actually continued until November 3rd.
But those forecasting this storm understood the magnitude of that November 1st. I asked my friend, and National Weather Service Meteorologist JP Martin to sum up his feelings about that day.

He told me, “I am still in awe of the fact that at the same moment that there were five tornadoes in the Bismarck Mandan area, there was a blizzard raging 150 miles away on the Montana border. It taught me a lesson as a meteorologist and as someone who lives in North Dakota, we need to be ready for anything and everything.”

The tornadoes that day were the latest on record for North Dakota. Before then the record was from October 11, 1979, in Sargeant County – just south of Valley City.

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