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Storm brings rain, snow to the region

A winter storm warning for all of eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota is in effect until Monday, and a mix of rain and snow was reported Friday night throughout the Red River Valley, leading to treacherous driving conditions and sever...

A winter storm warning for all of eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota is in effect until Monday, and a mix of rain and snow was reported Friday night throughout the Red River Valley, leading to treacherous driving conditions and several accidents.

The National Weather Service office in Grand Forks said the winter storm could bring snowfall totals of 6 to 12 inches by the time it is over.

North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven declared a snow emergency Friday; a travel alert was issued for the entire state.

Grand Forks County issued a no-travel advisory late Friday because of freezing rain, and many other counties in central North Dakota did as well as the storm pushed through.

Many area Minnesota law enforcement dispatchers reported icy road conditions, but no travel restrictions were issued as of late Friday.

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Scattered ice was reported on Interstate 29 from the Canadian border to north of Grand Forks, and continuous ice was reported from Hillsboro, N.D., to Fargo. No travel was advised in the Jamestown and Valley City, N.D., areas, as well.

Meteorologist Pete Speicher said warm temperatures Friday night meant the precipitation fell mostly as rain or freezing rain, especially in Minnesota and the southern Red River Valley.

He expected a mix of rain, sleet and snow at least until early today, when precipitation should switch over to snow that could stick around almost continuously until Monday.

The Grand Forks area is lucky in some ways, he said, because the precipitation was expected to switch over to only snow late Friday. That's a good thing because if it was still raining when temperatures dropped below freezing, it would cause ice buildup and slippery conditions that could make driving even more dangerous.

"We're not going to have a sheet of ice," he said.

He expected total snowfall accumulations for Grand Forks to be 6 to 10 inches by Monday.

But Speicher said areas west of Grand Forks, especially near Devils Lake, will likely get the most snow, and other areas could still get freezing rain before the snow starts. "There's all kind of weather all over right now," he said.

No major power outages were reported in the area as of Friday evening, but they could occur as rain freezes to ice on area power lines. That's not the same for western North Dakota.

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"The frost on the lines from the fog earlier this week is contributing to the ice sticking to the power lines," said Wally Kalmbach, safety director of the North Dakota Association of Rural Electric Cooperatives. "On some power lines, there is a 3- to 4-inch ball of ice forming."

Kalmbach said outages had been reported across southwestern and south central North Dakota on Friday. No statewide estimates of the number of homes without power were available.

Will it be a blizzard?

A "sharp change" in wind direction will make Monday a windy day, which could lead to blowing snow and low visibility. He said it could be enough to make the storm into a blizzard, which is by definition frequent gusts of 35 mph and blowing snow that restricts visibility to less than one-quarter of a mile for three hours or more.

If that happens, the Herald will name the blizzard Brett for the Minnesota Vikings' Brett Favre.

Speicher said blowing snow will be most likely around Devils Lake and Grand Forks because that is where the most snow is expected to fall. "I'd say northeastern North Dakota is going to be a concern for Monday," he said.

But the amount of snow or even freezing rain that the storm will bring could vary greatly around the region, he said, because this is a "pretty complex system."

Reach Johnson at (701) 780-1105; (800) 477-6572, ext. 105; or send e-mail to rjohnson@gfherald.com . Forum Communications Co. staff reports contributed to this article.

Related Topics: WEATHER
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