Second half of storm packs a wallop as schools close across region
FARGO - The second half of what the National Weather Service billed as a "one-two punch" winter storm system packed a wallop this morning, creating blizzard-like conditions that prompted Fargo-Moorhead area schools to close and snowplow drivers to pull off of highways until daylight because of poor visibility.
More than 700 customers in West Fargo's Eagle Run development lost power at 7:50 a.m., and crews were still working to restore it at 9 a.m., Cass County Electric Co-op spokeswoman Carrie Joyce said. The cause of the outage wasn't known, she said.
Just before 9 a.m., Sgt. Troy Hischer of the North Dakota Highway Patrol said he was driving only 30 mph on Interstate 94 in West Fargo because of extremely poor visibility.
"Luckily, the traffic is light out here right now, and I hope it stays like that at least 'til the conditions improve, because it's terrible," he said, adding wind-driven snow is "really hindering drivers."
A no travel advisory was issued for I-94 from Fargo to Jamestown, N.D., and the patrol was monitoring I-29, Hischer said, noting Canadian authorities closed I-29 from Winnipeg to the border.
Two vehicles hit the ditch on I-29 near Cass County 20, he said, but otherwise no serious accidents were reported.
The weather service in Grand Forks has a blizzard warning in effect until 6 p.m. today for most of eastern North Dakota and parts of northwest and west-central Minnesota.
Total snow accumulations of 1 to 4 inches are expected before the storm subsides this evening, the weather service said. Winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts to around 45 mph are possible.
The North Dakota Department of Transportation and state patrol extended a no travel advisory for all state highways in northeast and north-central North Dakota, including the cities of Devils Lake, Grafton, Grand Forks and Minot because of extremely high winds creating reduced visibility and zero visibility at times. A no travel advisory also is in effect for southwest North Dakota, while a travel alert is in effect for the rest of the state.
Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead schools all closed today, as did the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. North Dakota State University's Web site said the university remained in "full operation" but was monitoring the storm.
Bruce Nord, maintenance superintendent for the North Dakota Department of Transportation, said plows weren't officially pulled from roads, but drivers in the Hillsboro and Wahpeton areas were pulling off until daylight because they couldn't see far enough in front of their plows.
"For right now, visibility is really tough out there," he said.
Roads in the F-M metro area had scattered icy spots from freezing rain over the weekend, and Nord advised people not to travel until conditions improve.
"With this wind, we're trying to do some sanding, but the sand blows off the road as quick as it comes out of the truck," he said.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation advised no unnecessary travel in west-central Minnesota due to blowing snow, reduced visibility, drifting and slippery roads.
"Right now, we're getting a lot of blowing and drifting snow. There's a lot of pillow drifts on the roads. Visibility is probably a quarter-mile. In some places, it's almost white-out conditions," said Dennis Redig, maintenance superintendent in MnDOT's west-central district.