Blizzard Brett gets nastyAfter starting out unusually warm over the weekend with rain and wet snow, winter storm Brett became a blizzard by Monday, freezing the puddles and slush and adding 1 to 4 inches of blowing snow, causing whiteouts in wind gusts 50 mph and higher across eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.
By: James R. Johnson , Grand Forks Herald
Blizzard Brett didn’t retire.
After starting out unusually warm over the weekend with rain and wet snow, winter storm Brett became a blizzard by Monday, freezing the puddles and slush and adding 1 to 4 inches of blowing snow, causing whiteouts in wind gusts 50 mph and higher across eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.
The storm forced many schools, businesses and city and county government offices to close, and high winds and drifting snow closed many area roads. Some area rural customers remained with out power Monday, but nowhere near the thousands in other parts of the state, South Dakota, Minnesota and even stretching into Iowa and Nebraska.
Conditions were forecast to improve by 9 p.m. Monday, and the rest of the week promises to be quiet but very cold, the National Weather Service office in Grand Forks reported. Overnight wind chills of 25 below to 30 below were forecast into today.
A blizzard warning was issued at 4:19 a.m. Monday, effective at first until mid-afternoon, but later extended until 9 p.m., for the wider valley.
Several traffic accidents, mostly vehicles driving into ditches in the blizzard whiteout, including a several-vehicle pileup in Pembina County — but no serious injuries — were reported, law enforcement agencies said.
Conditions were better in much of northwestern Minnesota.
A winter weather advisory was in effect until 9 p.m. for Roseau, and eastern Marshall, Beltrami, Clearwater and Lake of the Woods counties in Minnesota.
The blizzard was named Brett by the Herald, which names the area’s severe winter storms, after Minnesota Vikings quarterback Brett Favre. The decision is based in part on alphabetical order and was made before Sunday’s NFC Championship game, which Favre and the Vikings lost in overtime to the New Orleans Saints.
The storm ended up dropping much less snow than the 8 to 14 inches forecast as late as early Friday, partly because it stayed warmer, as high as 34 degrees, meaning more rain and sleeting ice fell before the snow came.
On Monday, the temperature at the Grand Forks International Airport fell from 20 degrees at 1 a.m. to 5 degrees by about 7 p.m., with wind chills expected to fall to 23 below to near 30 below overnight, with actual temperatures down to 6 degrees below zero by this morning.
As of noon Monday, the weather service said 3.5 inches of new snow had fallen while Grand Forks airport had recorded 2.6 inches. The airport canceled all morning and early afternoon flights.
Plows were pulled off Interstate 29 by midmorning Monday. Shortly after, the North Dakota Department of Transportation and North Dakota Highway Patrol issued a no-travel advisory for all state highways in northeastern North Dakota. The advisory was lifted later Monday for several counties in west and west-central North Dakota.
I-29 from Grand Forks to the U.S.-Canada border was closed, as were U.S. Highway 2 from Crookston to East Grand Forks, and Highway 200 from Ada, Minn., to U.S. Highway 75.
The Pembina County Sheriff’s Department responded to a report of several cars bumping into each other between Cavalier, N.D., and I-29. An ambulance was dispatched for a woman who reportedly struck her head, the Sheriff’s Department said.
Many schools and businesses closed for the day, including some that originally planned school and bus delays. (See GrandForksHerald.com for updates today.)
School board meetings scheduled for Monday in Grand Forks and Grand Forks Air Force Base were canceled. The joint public forum has been rescheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 8 at South Middle School. The East Grand Forks School Board meeting has been postponed until 5:30 p.m. tonight.
Grand Forks Public Schools canceled classes at 5:30 a.m. Monday and UND at 6:30 a.m. East Grand Forks schools already had no classes scheduled.
“Frankly, we were concerned that it had been warmer and, with the ice storm, what impact freezing conditions would have on driving and walking,” UND spokesman Peter Johnson said. “We check with the school district, the city, Grand Forks Air Force Base and major entities to coordinate the decision. It’s not a lock that if the school district cancels classes that UND will.” It was the first time a storm has closed UND since 2001, officials said. Officials said employees and students would return as normal today.
Jason Uhlir, director of campus safety and security, said UND was also in contact with the Grand Forks Streets Department and Highway Patrol. He said there were several phone calls made from 4 to 6 a.m. Monday.
“From a visibility standpoint, this was far worse than the Christmas blizzard,” Uhlir said.
The Energy and Environmental Research Center at UND stayed open.
In Fargo, North Dakota State University closed its campus at 10 a.m. Monday.
Grand Forks City Hall closed for the day just after 10 a.m., said Kevin Dean, public information officer, and Monday night’s City Council meeting would be rescheduled, though the decision when won’t be announced until today. City buses stopped running at 1 p.m. Monday.
East Grand Forks City Hall and other offices closed at noon. Altru Hospital closed area clinics at noon and cancelled outpatient services. The emergency room and Urgent Care Center remained open.
Grand Forks Park District activities were canceled, and outdoor rinks will be closed until Wednesday.
Mark Aubol, superintendent for the Grand Forks Street Department, said one crew was keeping intersections open Monday afternoon and would be joined by a second crew at 11 p.m.
“There’s a lot of ice in residential areas that’s going to make it a challenge,” Aubol said.
More than 2,500 people were without electricity in North Dakota on Monday morning, and about 7,200 were without power in South Dakota.
The storm has left 400 to 500 Nodak Electric customers in Walsh and Nelson, N.D., counties without power. “About 300 near Dahlen, N.D.,” said George Berg, chief executive officer at Nodak Electric, on Monday morning. “Conditions are making it pretty slow, but we should be getting some of those lines back on, including that substation.”
Dan Olson, operation manager at Xcel Energy, said company crews have responded to only one outage in the Grand Forks area. He said crews from Minneapolis have been called into South Dakota.
“We just lucked out up here,” Olson said.
Dan Riddle of the weather service said skies are expected to clear today with winds of 10 to 15 miles per hour, but below normal temperatures will be with us for “quite some time.”
“Lows will range from 5 to 15 degrees below zero with highs zero and just above,” Riddle said.
Herald staff writers Mike Brue, Stephen J. Lee and Matt Cory contributed to this article.
Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1262; (800) 477-6572, ext. 262; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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