Greater Grand Forks schools running late and travel isn't advised, but it's not a blizzard warning
Winds gust beyond 40 mph throughout the region. Although the storm was downgraded overnight from a blizzard to a winter advisory, Herald names the storm Blizzard Caitlin.
GRAND FORKS — A blizzard warning that was issued for the northern Red River Valley was canceled overnight, but it certainly doesn't mean residents of the area are out of the cold just yet.
Schools in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks ran two hours late on Friday, Jan. 27, as did UND. No-travel advisories were issued for portions of northwest Minnesota and northeastern North Dakota. Temperatures will continue to fall into the weekend, creating frigid wind chills.
The National Weather Service on Thursday afternoon issued a blizzard warning for Traill, Grand Forks, Walsh and Pembina counties in North Dakota and Norman, Polk, Marshall and Kittson counties in northwest Minnesota.
The warning was to be in effect through noon Friday. But overnight, the blizzard warning was downgraded, and the region was placed in a winter weather advisory.
Despite the short duration of the blizzard warning, the Herald named the storm Blizzard Caitlin after Caitlin Olson, of East Grand Forks, who won the Home of Economy-Grand Forks Herald's Pie Bake-off last summer. Other named blizzards so far this year were Blizzard Alexandra (for Alexandra Lunseth, a recent Mrs. North Dakota winner) and Blizzard Barry (for Barry Wilfahrt, head of the Grand Forks-East Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce).
The Herald has been naming blizzards since 1990, giving storms alphabetically alternating male/female names in an effort to honor local residents and also to log storms for the sake of history. The Herald generally uses the names of people in the news, famous or mythical figures, or those with connections to the Herald. The record is eight, during the winter of 1996-97.
Although the storm wasn't technically a blizzard as the sun rose Friday morning, it still had many traits of a blizzard, including high winds, cold temperatures and reduced visibility.
It also prompted various delays and closings, including the late hours of the Greater Grand Forks schools and others in the area. Also, staff at the Grand Forks County Courthouse and office building were told to report to work at 10 a.m. Friday.
At approximately 7 p.m. Thursday, a North Dakota Highway Patrol vehicle was struck after it stopped to respond to a four-vehicle crash on Interstate 29 near Argusville, North Dakota. The northbound lanes were closed for more than two hours while the crash was investigated.
Around midnight, the winds were strong but temperatures reached above 32 degrees in the area. It helped form a crust on accumulated snow and reduce blowing snow.
"We're just not hitting that blizzard criteria," WDAY meteorlogist Lydia Blume said during the station's early morning broadcast Friday.
She said winds of at least 35 mph must be present — "which we have," she said — but visibility must be less than a quarter-mile for three consecutive hours. That wasn't necessarily happening, she said.
At 6 a.m. Friday, strong winds definitely were present. Gusts were reaching beyond the 40 mph range in Grand Forks and other cities in the region.
Wind chills will remain dangerous throughout the weekend, and especially Saturday. According to the National Weather Service, Saturday's high will only be minus-5 in Greater Grand Forks, but it'll feel as low as minus-32.
Sunday and Monday, the high will be around minus-4.