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James McBenge shields his face from bone-chilling winds during a walk along First Avenue East near Ninth Street in West Fargo in this Jan. 27, 1997, photo. Fifteen years ago today, the first blizzard of what was arguably the worst winter on record locally struck the Red River Valley. Forum file photo

Weather Talk: First blizzard of dreaded 1996-97 winter struck 15 years ago today

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James McBenge shields his face from bone-chilling winds during a walk along First Avenue East near Ninth Street in West Fargo in this Jan. 27, 1997, photo. Fifteen years ago today, the first blizzard of what was arguably the worst winter on record locally struck the Red River Valley. Forum file photo

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Fifteen years ago today, the first blizzard of what was arguably the worst winter on record locally struck the Red River Valley.

The snow arrived during the early afternoon, which was a Saturday in 1996. The snow and wind forced Hector International Airport to close quickly that afternoon, and both Interstate 29 and Interstate 94 were closed at 10 p.m.

A total of 5 inches had accumulated by midnight, but it continued to snow the rest of the night and into the following morning. The wind gusted to over 40 mph at times and did not settle down enough to reopen the main roads until late the following day. In total, 13.5 inches fell, not including 2 inches that had fallen the day before the storm. Drifts were 3 to 4 feet high.

The winter of 1996-97 brought a total of eight blizzards to Fargo-Moorhead, with other parts of the area recording as many as 10 blizzards.

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