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Dave Olson, Published December 14 2008

'The real deal': Potentially deadly wind, snow choke traffic in Red River Valley; Minnesota National Guard on standby

UPDATED 3:01 p.m.

As wind, snow and cold blasted the Red River Valley Sunday, Cass County Sheriff Paul Laney had these words for anyone thinking of venturing out: "This storm is the real deal. To be caught out in it and not to be prepared, could be deadly."

Blizzard conditions forced the closing of many businesses in the Fargo-Moorhead area, including the West Acres Shopping Center in Fargo.

In Moorhead, the Minnesota National Guard was standing by to aid with emergencies, according to Clay County Sheriff Bill Bergquist.

"They (The Guard) have a tracked vehicle they say can go right over the snow," said Bergquist, who said his own department had deputies on call in communities around the county with the necessary gear and vehicles to deal with snow and winds gusting above 40 mph.

"We have snowmobiles ready," said Bergquist.

Authorities in Fargo and Cass County were busy Sunday aiding motorists whose vehicles became stuck in snow drifts that grew deeper with each passing hour.

"We're advising absolutely no travel. Please honor this request, because conditions are that horrible," said Laney, adding his department had helped many stranded motorists and most could not give him a good reason for having ventured out.

"When we ask them why they're out, they don't really have a good reason," he said.

Laney called Sunday's storm the worst he could remember since the blizzards of 1996-97.

Some Fargo streets, including 19th Avenue North, were closed early this afternoon because of the number of vehicles getting stuck.

Buffalo, N.D., had to deal with more than snowbanks.

The city lost power about 9 a.m. and officials scrambled to set up an emergency shelter in the city's community center.

Power was restored about 5 p.m., according to Buffalo Mayor Philip Weshnevski.

Weshnevski said the problem was a downed line.

The Argusville, N.D., Fire Department handled a small chimney fire at 818 Sugar Drive, Fire Chief Randy Teberg said.

Teberg said he did not know the name of the family living there.

the fire was small, but getting to the scene was difficult. One of the fire department's trucks got stuck in the snow and had to be freed, said Teberg.

He added his department helped motorists who got stuck on the overpass at Highway 4 and Interstate 29.

In one case, two people were taken back to Argusville, where they were staying with local residents.

West Fargo Police advised no travel in the city.

The heaviest snow accumulations, possibly seven to 14 inches, were expected to occur along and south of a line running from Valley City to the Fargo-Moorhead area and on to Bemidji, according to the Weather Service.

Snow totals of five to 10 inches were expected from Cooperstown, N.D., northeast to Grand Forks, N.D., before the snow tapered off sometime tonight, the Weather Service said.

As of about 2 p.m. the Fargo-Moorhead area had received seven to 10 inches of snow, accoridng to the Weather Service.

Authorities in Cass and Clay Counties were reporting snow drifts four to five feet high in some areas early this afternoon.

The storm made the the F-M Community Bike Workshop's new digs in Fargo a lonely place this afternoon.

Pete Morsch, one of the collective's dozen or so "super volunteers" managed to walk and ride his bike into the shop at the old Woodchuck building at 1418 1st Ave. N. to prepare for its grand re-opening and first anniversary celebration.

"I'm the only guy here," Morsch said at 1 p.m., the party's official start time. "It's pretty quiet and the streets are pretty nasty."

Morsch said he tried to ride his bike through the ruts of four-by-four trucks on the side streets, but had to give that up for foot power until he could make it to the snow emergency routes.

"It's a lonely city out there today," Morsch said.

Morsch said the party will be rescheduled for when the weather settles down, and he can again safely trot out the several plates of Christmas cookies that he was looking at.

Then he perked up. Gas prices were sure to bounce back up and bikers were sure to want to return to the streets, whether or not the weather was bad. "Sometime this winter, we'll host a winter riding clinic," Morsch said.

Reporter Helmut Schmidt contributed to this report.