Although snow impacts were lower than expected during Blizzard Geraldine, the storm still gripped the region with impressive force, experts said.
National Weather Service Meteorologist Nick Carletta said 6 inches of snow fell on the city of Grand Forks, and the airport saw 8 inches. A band of heavy snowfall formed from south central North Dakota, into the northern Red River Valley and into northwestern Minnesota. In Kittson County, there were reports of up to 9 inches of snow, and Carletta said higher amounts were near the Larimore, N.D., area, which saw about 10 inches.
Carletta said winds throughout the region were strong, and Grand Forks saw gusts of 55 miles per hour. In Fargo, a billboard was knocked over by 56 mph winds. Conditions in open country were severe and caused whiteouts and near-zero visibility.
The Herald named the blizzard Geraldine after Geraldine Pearson, who has been a Herald carrier since 1981, and in honor of all Herald carriers braving this ugly winter.
Snow began falling Wednesday night, and winds picked up early Thursday. By 5 a.m. Thursday morning, most major highways were closed and the North Dakota Department of Transportation warned of "life-threatening driving conditions." Drifts of up to 6 feet were reported throughout the region, and Carletta said a number of cars and semis were stranded in the storm and rescued by emergency responders. He said the stranded vehicles complicated efforts to plow roads as crews headed out Friday morning.
It's common for the DoT to close roads during a blizzard, Carletta said, but for cleanup to extend into a longer period is rare. Carletta said it's unusual for highways still to be closed the next morning, but it shows the intensity of the storm.
Some homes in the region lost power, but Carletta said outages were a more significant problem in southeastern North Dakota because of freezing rain.
Although the storm may not have been as "historic" as it was initially predicted to be, Carletta said it was one of the most severe systems in the past five years.
High temperatures are expected to increase Sunday and stay above freezing for much of next week, he said.
Blizzard Geraldine increased the chance for significant flooding, Carletta said, although the most significant factor will be when and how fast the snow melts.