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Storm shuts down schools, sends cars into ditches

A large winter storm in the works since late last week delivered all that was expected and then some Sunday and Monday as it shut down schools and other government offices throughout the state.

Bill Beiswenger, manager of Slumberland, right, and Tyler Stein work their shovels and ice scrapers to keep ahead of Monday's storm in Grand Forks. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald
Bill Beiswenger, manager of Slumberland, right, and Tyler Stein work their shovels and ice scrapers to keep ahead of Monday's storm in Grand Forks. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

A large winter storm in the works since late last week delivered all that was expected and then some Sunday and Monday as it shut down schools and other government offices throughout the state.

Meteorologist Vince Godon of the National Weather Service in Grand Forks said the storm lived up to its unpredictability.

“The big story is it’s been very challenging, and there have been high differences in what certain areas are seeing,” Godon said. “One portion of the county is seeing one thing, and other parts are not.”

For instance, meteorologist Nicholas Carletta said nearly a foot of snow had fallen by 6 p.m. Monday in southwest Grand Forks County, with only 5.5 inches reported in Grand Forks. The total storm amount for the city was 5.7 inches.

“It was a really strong spring storm. Last night at 9, 10 o’clock, we had lightning come through Grand Forks with a lot of thunder,” Godon said. “Traditionally with winter storms you don’t have thunder. But when you get thunder, you have hail, sleet and freezing rain. Just about everything under the sun was coming down last night.”

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Grand Forks’ daily snowfall total broke the 4-inch record set in 1956, Carletta said.

Some of the highest amounts of snow fell near Mayville and the area from Buxton to near Fargo. Totals there ranged from 8 inches to a foot. Carletta said Hillsboro had 12.5 inches. Fargo reported only 5.5 inches, which was another daily record for March 5.

In Minnesota, Carletta said the Wadena and Park Rapids areas had up to 13 inches of snow. Totals near Bemidji ranged from 8 to 11 inches.

Carletta said the heavy snowfall was diminishing in the Grand Forks area by 6 p.m., but up to 2 inches were possible into the night.

“Then we have to worry about everything freezing over and being icy in the morning,” he said. “But the consistent snow should stop before 8 a.m.”

The North Dakota Department of Transportation and North Dakota Highway Patrol put out several travel advisories throughout the day, and officials there said they were surprised by the lack of accidents.

Lt. Troy Hischer of the North Dakota Highway Patrol said only one accident was reported in the Grand Forks area. A semi had jackknifed on Interstate 29 near Reynolds, but no one was injured.

“We definitely have a buildup of snow, slush and ice on the roadway, but in the big scheme of things, it’s been pretty pleasant out there,” Hischer said. “The motorists have heeded the warnings. The public has done really well reducing their speeds and staying patient out there.”

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Chief Deputy Jim Tadman of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Crookston said conditions were extremely icy on U.S. Highway 2 from Crookston all the way to the county line in Lengby.

He said at least a dozen vehicles had landed in the ditch Monday.

“We have very icy, snow-covered roads,” he said. “The plows are out, but travel is very unsafe. If you don’t have to travel for an emergency, I would suggest staying at home. It’s not very good out in the county right now.”

He said visibility was down to zero across much of U.S. Highway 2.

“It’s going to get worse as night falls,” he said. “Travel is going to get very difficult. Crosswinds are causing small drifts, and that’s making the roads ice-packed.”

In Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, authorities said no more than the usual number of car accidents were reported.

“I suppose the snow is heavy enough that people are being a little more careful,” East Grand Forks Police Chief Mike Hedlund said.

Grand Forks Police Sgt. Travis Benson also said the day was “uneventful” with a handful of accidents. He said traffic overall probably was lighter because schools and some businesses were closed.

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East Grand Forks declared a snow emergency beginning at midnight, meaning no vehicles may be parked on city streets until all streets are cleared of snow their full width. Any vehicles parked in the street are subject to ticketing and towing.

Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-20s Tuesday, with lows in the upper teens.

Carletta said the next weather event may come as soon as Friday or Saturday with an Alberta Clipper.

“It’s far enough out, so we can’t predict any snowfall totals with certainty,” he said. “We’ll have to keep an eye on it because these clippers can vary a lot.”

Related Topics: WEATHER
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