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By Mike Nowatzki and Erik Burgess, Forum staff writers, Published October 04 2012

Octo-brrr surprise not so surprising

FARGO – Summer sure left in a hurry Thursday morning, as Old Man Winter decided to drop more than an inch of snow on the metro and strong winds cut power to 6,500 homes.

Fargo-Moorhead got 1.4 inches, while the northern valley was hit a bit harder, said WDAY-TV meteorologist Rob Kupec.

Grand Forks got 3 inches, and Karlstad, Minn., ravaged by a devastating fire earlier this week, got a blanket of at least 5 inches, Kupec said.

The gusting winds knocked out power to 6,500 Xcel Energy customers in the metro Thursday morning at around 6:30. Some customers were without power for just longer than two hours, said Judi Paukert, Xcel community relations manager.

Paukert said a power pole fire caused the outage.

“We believe the weather was a contributing factor, that the wind and moisture caused the pole fire,” she said.

It may seem strange, but snow this early is not terribly uncommon, Kupec said. He remembers a 6-inch snowfall in mid-October in 2001.

“You probably get one of these every 10 to 15 years,” he said. “We’ve had recorded snow in September. Those are few and far between, but they’ve happened.”

The snowfall in Fargo stopped by mid-morning Thursday, turning to slush as temps warmed up. Kupec said there might be some flurries today, but any precipitation this weekend in the metro should be light, and temps could hit the low 60s by next Thursday.

Deeper snowfall hit the northern valley, where the Minnesota State Patrol blamed near-blizzard conditions for a head-on collision that killed a woman in the Thief River Falls area.

Residents in various area lost power for several hours early in the morning, as northwest Minnesota got from 1 to 8 inches, with areas near Badger, Minn., receiving 12 to 14 inches.

The snow and moisture has the potential to affect the ongoing corn and sugar beet harvests in the Red River Valley, said John Kringler, Cass County Extension agent.

Growers, especially in the northern valley, may have to wait until the snow melts off the husks before resuming the corn harvest, which is about halfway finished, Kringler said.

“What happens with snow and corn, if it sits on the corn husks, when you try to harvest, it can start freezing up some of the sieves in the combine, which allows the corn to go through the machine rather than be collected,” he said.

The precipitation will create muddy topsoil conditions for the sugar beet harvest now in full swing, but it shouldn’t cause too much trouble for beet lifters, Kringler said.

“With the beet people, I think it’s going to be more an issue of the temperatures being too warm, or else when we get down in the 20s or something, being too cold, where they’ll have to watch beet root temperature for piling,” he said.

Beets are probably the only crop left to harvest that could benefit from the moisture, by hydrating their cells for better storage condition, Kringler said. Soybean plants also may absorb some moisture and swell, but it shouldn’t be detrimental to the crop, he said.

“You might have to wait a little bit until they firm up a little bit again,” he said.

Readers can reach Forum reporters Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528 and Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518