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Erik Burgess and Mike Nowatzki, Published January 11 2013

Region coated with slippery layer ahead of snowstorm, colder temps

FARGO – When it comes to weathering the worst winter storm of the season, close friends Tom Schultz and Dave Ouren take it in stride. And with a drink in hand.

“It keeps the riff raff out, I’ll tell you that much,” Schultz, 58, said of the blustery weather.

“Except us guys,” Ouren, also 58, added as the two laughed over a drink at Mahoney’s Bar and Grill in downtown Fargo on Friday night.

School was called off, buses were canceled, travel advisories were issued, and police were kept very busy as the first snowstorm of the year rumbled into the region.

“I don’t know why I’m still here,” Ouren said with a smile. “But I’m used to it.”

No travel advised

By 7 p.m. Friday, the North Dakota Department of Transportation had issued a no travel advisory for the entire northern half of the state, including Grand Forks, Devils Lake, Minot and Williston.

There were nearly 200 school, after school and community activity cancellations and early dismissals throughout the day, some extending into today.

Citing icy roads, MATBUS routes, including MAT Paratransit, were canceled Friday evening, and were expected to resume two hours late today, beginning at 9:15 a.m.

No serious accidents

By Friday evening, Fargo Police had responded to between 25 and 30 car accidents throughout the day, said Sgt. Carlos Nestler. Officers across the river saw 17 minor car accidents on Friday, said Lt. Deric Swenson of the Moorhead Police. Both said they were unaware of any serious accidents.

The Minnesota State Patrol cited one driver for going 100 mph on a wet Interstate 94 early Friday morning, when temperatures hovered around the freezing point.

An adult female and two children younger than the age of 3 were inside the car with the man, Sgt. Jesse Grabow said.

The driver, 24-year-old Zakariya Sharif, of Minneapolis, told the trooper he was in a hurry to drop off his passengers in Fargo and return to Minneapolis for work. Sharif was cited for going 100 mph in a 70 mph zone. The ticket includes a fine of at least $212.

“I would call that a disregard for safety and an extreme lack of common sense,” Grabow said.

Also in Minnesota, A semi rolled heading westbound on I-94 near Barnesville. No one was injured, but the semi was hauling nine showroom cars. Grabow said troopers in northwestern Minnesota responded to 18 crashes, four of them rollovers, with no serious injuries.

In West Fargo, it was relatively quieter. Three fender benders were reported by early Friday evening, and there was one report of a person slipping and falling on the ice.

Grabow advised motorists to slow down, keep their headlights on and not to use cruise control. For updates on statewide travel advisories, visit www.nddot.gov.

Slip slidin’ away

Icy conditions Friday morning were blamed for a record number of falls requiring responses by

F-M Ambulance Service, prompting its operations director to issue a safety warning.

Ken Krupich said the service responded to 10 fall-related calls before 1 p.m. – nine of them at the same time, requiring ancillary staff to deploy three ambulances in addition to the six already out on calls.

Ice is forming spottily on sidewalks, driveways and parking lots, catching unsuspecting pedestrians off guard, he said.

“They’re not just bumps and bruises. They’re usually fractures that we’re seeing,” he said.

F-M Ambulance plans to remain on high alert with at least eight ambulances on call as conditions worsen during the weekend storm, Krupich said.

“It’s just one of those things where, just sit tight if you can, be careful if you can’t,” he said.

‘Cold, blustery’ forecast

WDAY Chief Meteorologist John Wheeler says icy roads might be the only problem for cities to the south and east of the Red River Valley as the storm continues into the weekend.

He said he expects 4 to 10 inches of snow from Jamestown, up to Devils Lake and Grand Forks. Fargo-Moorhead should see less than that, he said.

“By the time people pick up their paper, it really should be starting to wind down,” Wheeler said. “It’ll be a cold, blustery day.”

A National Weather Service blizzard warning is in effect for the Grand Forks and Devils Lake areas until noon today.

Wheeler said windchills today could hit 20 to 30 below zero, with strong “close to blizzard force” winds in the morning that will die down as the day moves on. He said white-out conditions could exist in some places in the very early morning, but things should begin to calm down into the day.

“That’s not to say it’ll suddenly be hunky dory. You’ve got icy roads, drifting snow,” he said. “But the weather itself should be starting to improve at first light.”

Some community events are canceled and some buildings remain closed into today. For a complete list, visit www.inforum.com. MATBUS updates can be found at www.matbus.com.

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

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