As Blizzard Geraldine rolled through North Dakota and Minnesota Thursday, law enforcement officials say they were helping numerous stranded motorists along rural roads.
Grand Forks County Sheriff’s Office Cpl. Chris Hutton on Thursday morning said he and Sheriff Andy Schneider had checked on about a dozen vehicles in the area.
Hutton said he came across the cars as he drove back and forth along U.S. Highway 2 between Grand Forks and Emerado early Thursday. The North Dakota Department of Transportation later closed the highway between Grand Forks and Devils Lake. Interstate 29 also was closed from the Canadian border to Fargo.
“It ain’t good out there,” Hutton said. “North-south roads are bad. We’ve had a couple of deputies get stuck trying to go help other people that got stuck, so it just adds to the totality of the storm.”>
In Polk County, officers fielded a high volume of calls about stranded vehicles, said Sgt. Brian Lundeen with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Lundeen said the Sheriff’s Office saw more vehicles stranded in this blizzard “by far” than in any other storm this year.
Citing North Dakota law, Hutton urged residents to ensure their headlights are on in inclement weather.
“Just because you have daytime driving lights doesn’t mean that they’re on,” he said. “I would say the cars that I’ve come across don’t have any headlights on at the time.”
Wade Kadrmas, safety and education officer with the North Dakota Highway Patrol, said that for the most part, residents had heeded warnings to stay off roads.
“We haven’t seen a whole lot, but I think there were a few isolated incidents where people have gotten stuck,” Kadrmas said. “It seems pretty quiet.”
2 PM Update: Blizzard conditions are confined to where snow is currently falling. However despite visibility improving behind this band, significant drifting due to high winds will continue today making for very hazardous to dangerous travel conditions.#ndwx #mnwx #DoNotTravel pic.twitter.com/QVbNALET0e
- NWS Grand Forks (@NWSGrandForks) March 14, 2019
Mark Aubol, Grand Forks’ streets and facilities director, concurred. He also noted plows began clearing roadways as early as 3 a.m. Thursday.
Another plowing crew was dispatched at 6 a.m.
“In my travels today around town, I’ve seen a few people that got stuck, but they got out on their own.”
East Grand Forks Police Sgt. Chris Olson said that most residents were “definitely laying low” with the strong winds.
Though things remained relatively calm within Grand Forks’ city limits, the blizzard’s effects were more profound in rural communities, according to Hutton.
“In the smaller cities with no plows, the snow’s getting pretty deep,” he said, citing Emerado as an example.