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Wendy Reuer, Published February 28 2012

Metro braces for biggest winter storm of season

FARGO – Where’s all the snow?

By 10 p.m. Tuesday, many Fargo-Moorhead residents were asking the same question, wondering when the blizzard conditions and foot of snow predicted by the National Weather Service was going to show up.

But, with weather forecasts warning of nasty weather since the weekend, area schools and businesses were taking early precautions.

Schools in Moorhead and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton cancelled classes today. Many others will run two or more hours late.

The storm was late arriving compared to most forecasts that expected the storm to arrive by 5 p.m. Tuesday. Although no flakes fell at that time, forecasters promised the large system – which stretched across the country in an arch from Phoenix to Marquette, Mich. – was still on its way.

Temperatures began to drop late Tuesday evening, and signs of the storm began to show on open roads after 9 p.m. when the North Dakota Department of Transportation issued a no-travel advisory for Interstate 29 to the South Dakota border due to snow, blowing snow, reduced visibility and icy conditions

About an hour earlier, the South Dakota Department of Transportation shut down the interstate from the border south to Watertown, S.D.

The Cass County Sheriff’s Office set up a Tactical Operations Center in West Fargo where officers stood by in case of emergency and to monitor the storm expected to bring this season’s first major snowfall.

The majority of snow was expected to fall overnight Tuesday and today. By this afternoon, most of the snow will have dropped off, said John Hoppes, meteorologist with the National Weather Service.

“Looks like we’re going for about 8 to 12 inches (of snow) in Fargo,” Hoppes said.

Heavier snows were expected in the more southern parts of the storm band.

A blizzard watch created Monday was changed to a winter storm warning after heavy winds – a blizzard-making factor – did not appear to be a part of the storm.

Winds will be out of the north, between 20 and 30 mph, Hoppes said.

“It won’t be quite blizzard material, but out in the country, there might be white-out conditions at times,” Hoppes said.

In West Fargo, Mayor Rich Mattern ordered city offices closed today.

Essential city services will be maintained, and emergency snow routes will be plowed, Assistant Police Chief Mike Reitan stated in a news release announcing the closure.

"We're just being a little bit preemptive,” Reitan said.

Normal business hours will resume Thursday, weather permitting.

“If the storm isn’t as bad as forecasted, it’s possible city offices may reopen Wednesday,” he said.

The city of Fargo made no similar announcements.

Moorhead City Manager Michael Redlinger said the city would also remain open.

“The city of Moorhead remains open during inclement weather. Employees who are not able to report to work are permitted to use vacation time,” he said.

On Tuesday afternoon, shoppers filled grocery stores, stocking up in case they were shut in.

Guy Goschen, store director at Southgate Hornbacher’s, said traffic had picked up in his store considerably on Tuesday.

Goschen said that with Fargo and West Fargo public schools on spring break this week, there were more employees available to help keep up with the higher customer demand.

Grocery stores were not the only ones busy Tuesday. Liquor stores also tend to see a spike in business as people prep to stay home.

“It’s been one customer after another. Everybody stocks up especially when there is a storm coming,” said Jeremy Tjon, manager at Empire Liquors in Fargo.

Tjon said he did not expect any of the six Empire, Crown or Royal liquor stores would close due to the storm, but it is up to each individual store manager.

Tjon said he planned to keep his location on Broadway in downtown Fargo open.

“Being downtown, we get the walking traffic,” he said.

At Fargo’s Hector Inter-national Airport, flights had not yet been interrupted as of press time Tuesday, but Delta Airlines made a preemptive move, allowing passengers with flights for today to fly out Tuesday on a first-come, first-served basis.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530