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Fargo crews anticipating next battle; this time with melting snow

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Fargo crews anticipating next battle; this time with melting snow
Detroit Lakes Minnesota 511 Washington Avenue 56501

FARGO - With a paralyzing blizzard now in the rearview mirror, many metro residents are looking forward to warmer weather this weekend.

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But Al Weigel isn't among them.

The Fargo Public Works operations manager said the blizzard buried storm drains under massive drifts, and a weekend melt could cause a big mess.

"We're going to be fighting water in the streets," he said Wednesday.

City crews and area residents spent Wednesday digging out from a two-day storm that dumped a total of 10.1 inches of snow on Fargo-Moorhead, including a record 6.5 inches Tuesday. The old record was 5 inches in 1921, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, N.D.

The snowfall brought this winter's total to 61.5 inches, or about 23.2 inches above normal, said weather service meteorologist Pete Speicher.

Strong winds subsided about 3 a.m. Tuesday, and Fargo plows had punched at least a one-lane path through almost all residential streets by 1 p.m., Weigel said.

"We cleaned the town in record time," he said.

Plows had to back out of several streets because vehicles parked on the street didn't allow room to clear a path, Weigel said.

Still, it was "like night and day" compared to the number of vehicles towed during the last major snowstorm, he said.

Border Cities Service had towed 26 vehicles for the city from Tuesday through 3 p.m. Wednesday - a low count for such a big storm, owner Clem Schnase said.

He advised owners of snow-buried cars to dig out and save themselves a big bill: The minimum impound fee of $85 can snowball to $120 to $250 if the towing service has to dig out the vehicle, he said.

The process of cleaning up and widening roads and hauling snow away from downtown will take a week to 10 days, Weigel said, an estimate echoed by his counterparts in Moorhead and West Fargo.

Plows cut paths through snowdrifts 4 to 5 feet high in the Osgood and Amber Valley Parkway areas of southwest Fargo.

"It's like driving through a tunnel," Weigel said.

Moorhead Operations Manager Chad Martin saw similar conditions in southwest Moorhead's wide-open developments.

"It was as tall as the pickup in some of those cuts," he said.

Drifts were "easily over 6 feet tall" across some roads in West Fargo's Eagle Run and Westport Beach developments, said Chris Brungardt, assistant director of public works.

Chad Eken left his Westport Beach home Monday for a business trip in Iowa and returned about 4 p.m. Wednesday to find his driveway blocked by a snowdrift taller than him "by a couple feet - and I'm 6 foot," he said.

The 28-year-old construction engineer got a workout adding to the snowdrift piled high from previous storms this winter.

"It makes shoveling a lot harder when you've got to throw it to your height or higher," he said. "It's not a lot of fun."

The city's two heavy-duty snowblowers ran nonstop in the neighborhoods Tuesday, and some streets were still impassable as of 4 p.m., Brungardt said. The city hoped to have them open by this morning.

There was no shortage of complaints from residents.

"Just a lot of calls," he said. "It's a big storm we had, and a lot of people are used to having things cleared right afterward."

The weather service predicts a warm-up this weekend, with highs of near 13 today, 30 on Friday, 37 on Saturday and 42 on Sunday. There's a slight chance of freezing rain or snow Sunday night, Speicher said.

Weigel said it's vital for the city to widen roads and allow storm drains to open before the warm-up. Otherwise, the city will have to use payloaders and steamers to move snow and open the drains, which is a slow process, he said.

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