Blizzard Haley dumps around a foot of snow on Grand Forks, cancels school on Wednesday
The storm hit Grand Forks on Tuesday afternoon
GRAND FORKS — A blizzard that has gained national attention moved into northeast North Dakota Tuesday afternoon and immediately set off a string of closures in Grand Forks.
The blizzard — dubbed Blizzard Haley by the Grand Forks Herald, for Grand Forks State's Attorney Haley Wamstad — began with flurries early Tuesday afternoon. It didn't take long for the flurries to turn into a heavy, wet snowfall that by 4:45 p.m. had resulted in at least 3.5 inches of snow. Even in town, visibility late in the afternoon was dangerously reduced and traffic had slowed to nearly a standstill on several busy streets.
By Tuesday night around 8 p.m., the National Weather Service posted on Facebook that Grand Forks had received 9-11 inches of snow. The weather service added that some snowfall may have been higher due to "intense but rather narrow bands of very heavy snow lasting longer in one area than the others."
And more is yet to come. The event isn't likely to subside entirely until sometime Thursday.
A blizzard warning is in effect for almost all of North Dakota, save for a few counties in the far southeastern corner of the state. In Minnesota, far northwest counties — including Polk, Marshall, Kittson and Roseau — are in a winter storm warning. Farther east, Pennington, Beltrami and Lake of the Woods counties are in a winter weather advisory.
The area around Grand Forks and Thief River Falls was near what meteorologists in recent days have described as a rain-snow line. Due to the proximity to that line, it's been tough to forecast how much snow the immediate area will get, meteorologists at the National Weather Service and WDAY-TV have said.
At 4:45 p.m., the National Weather Service's Grand Forks office had officially recorded 3.5 inches of snow, but some reports of 4 to 6 inches were coming in to the office, said meteorologist Austin Perroux.
He said the heavy snow likely will continue into the evening.
"It was kind of what we expected," he said of the storm's afternoon approach, noting that the rain-snow line fell a bit farther south than originally indicated.
"We don't have any new estimates right now," Perroux told the Herald late Tuesday afternoon. "(The immediate Grand Forks area is still) roughly expected to be around the 6- to 10-inches range, but we could see some higher amounts, too."
Central and western North Dakota are getting hit especially hard. The state Department of Transportation announced the closure of Interstate 94 from Jamestown to the Montana border, beginning at 5 p.m.
A DOT release noted that "motorists are not allowed to travel on a closed road due to life-threatening conditions caused by blowing snow and near-zero visibility. Due to the rapidly changing road conditions and extreme winter weather, additional road closures are expected."
“Patience is key when dealing with storm delays caused by road closures. No one’s life is worth risking in these conditions; stay home, sit tight, and wait for the storm to pass,” Sgt. Wade Kadrmas, of the North Dakota Highway Patrol, said in the release.
The DOT reminds travelers to check road conditions by dialing 511.
Some closure announcements already are coming in. For example, the North Dakota Job Service Workforce Center closed at noon Tuesday.
In Grand Forks, Cities Area Transit bus routes were suspended at 5 p.m. Monday, due to road conditions.
"The issue with the buses really is the roads, with that slick, slippery snow," said City Administrator Todd Feland. "It was getting to be unsafe."
Feland said Grand Forks City Hall will be closed on Wednesday, except for essential services and workers. Cities Area Transit will not operate on Wednesday.
Also, Grand Forks garbage will not be collected on Wednesday. Wednesday’s garbage will be picked up on Thursday and Friday of this week.
Recycling will also not be picked up on Wednesday. Wednesday’s route will be picked up on Thursday.
WDAY reported Tuesday night that snowfall amounts throughout the region included 14 inches at Fessenden, 13 inches at New Rockford, 11 inches at Grand Forks Air Force Base, 9.5 inches at the National Weather Service station in Grand Forks, 9 inches in Bismarck and 6 inches in Devils Lake.
Wednesday, WDAY's forecast calls for a let-up of snow in the Grand Forks region, only to resume with strong winds and snow on Thursday.
- East Grand Forks City Hall and other city offices will be closed Wednesday.
- Many organizations, including UND, announced plans Wednesday afternoon to reopen on Thursday