North Dakota is a Midwestern state in the United States. It is the northernmost of the Great Plains states and is the northern half of The Dakotas. During the 19th century, North Dakota was considered part of the Wild West. Formerly part of Dakota Territory (named after the Dakota tribe of Native Americans), North Dakota became the 39th state in 1889. The Missouri River flows through the western part of the state and forms Lake Sakakawea behind the Garrison Dam. The western half of the state is hilly and is home to natural resources including lignite coal and crude oil. In the east, the Red River of the North forms the Red River Valley. This region has rich farmland. Agriculture has long dominated the economy and culture of North Dakota. The state capital is Bismarck. The largest city in the state is Fargo. Large public universities are located at Grand Forks and Fargo. The United States Air Force operates bases at both Minot and Grand Forks.
North Dakota is a prime example of a continental climate — it is distant from major bodies of water that would otherwise serve to moderate the weather. Because of this, the climate of North Dakota can range from sweltering heat and humidity to bitter cold. Competing warm air masses from the Gulf of Mexico and cold air masses from the Arctic regions often produce strong winds as they move in and out of the region. In the summer, the clash of arctic and tropic systems often leads to strong thunderstorms, sometimes including damaging hail and tornadoes. In the winter, the weather tends to be more stable — cold and dry, with occasional flurries — though the constant wind can create blowing snow at any time of the season. Severe snowstorms — some of which are classified as blizzards — tend to manifest late in the fall or early in the spring. Springtime flooding is a relatively common event in the extremely flat Red River Valley. The best known and most destructive flood in eastern North Dakota was the Flood of 1997. This flood devastated much of the Red River Valley and caused unprecedented damage in the city of Grand Forks.