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Erik Burgess, Published February 08 2013

Blizzard bearing down on valley, brace for worst

FARGO – Enjoy the nice weather today because Sunday could be brutal.

A winter storm system moving out of the Rockies and into the Dakotas has prompted the National Weather Service to issue a blizzard watch for much of the Red River Valley for early Sunday until Monday morning.

The Fargo-Moorhead area is expected to get 6 to 10 inches of snow throughout Sunday, WDAY meteorologist Daryl Ritchison said Friday. Temperatures will be in the mid-20s, with winds picking up as the day goes forward.

“Sunday just looks to be a horrible day,” Ritchison said, adding that some lingering effects of the storm could cause some school announcements on Monday morning.

Ritchison said today will be pleasant, with temps sticking around the mid-20s with light winds, but the snow will start to come down about 3 a.m. Sunday.

On Sunday afternoon, the weather service predicts strong winds from 25 to 35 mph in the southern part of the valley with gusts of up to 45 mph. Whiteout conditions are possible, especially in open country.

The National Weather Service is predicting areas along and south of Interstate 94 in North Dakota and Highway 10 in Minnesota will receive the most snow.

South Dakota is expected to catch the brunt of the storm. The weather service issued a blizzard watch on Friday for all but the western edge of the state.

Ritchison said temps in the Fargo-Moorhead area should stay seasonably fair next week after the storm passes, possibly dipping into the teens.

Moorhead snow removal

City and university officials here are taking steps to avoid another round of mass towing, if a snow removal declaration were to be made after this new winter storm passes.

During the metro area’s last major snow earlier this month, Moorhead was powdered with five inches. That prompted the city to issue its first ever snow removal declaration, under a new set of regulation the City Council adopted last summer to deal with issues with heavy street parking by its two college campuses.

The parking restrictions prohibit all parking over a two-day period on alternating sides of the road in areas near campus – a zone marked by blue signs. Any vehicle parked in along a street where parking is off-limits is subject to towing.

Citing confusing rules and poorly timed notification, a reported 130 cars were towed so city plows could clear the snow. Many of those towed were students at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

A councilman has said he will propose at Monday’s council meeting that the city refund some of the $95 towing fee on each vehicle.

David Wahlberg, MSUM’s executive director of marketing and communication, said part of the hiccup last time was that the school used a routine 9 a.m. email newsletter to warn the campus about the snow removal – meaning students got the notice an hour after 8 a.m.-8 p.m. snow rules went into effect.

The city made the declaration at about 11:30 a.m. the day before towing.

“We could’ve communicated that message out when it arrived rather than wait for our normal information distribution.” Wahlberg said. “We’re going to fix that.”

Wahlberg said the school will now be sending out snow warnings as soon as they receive them from the city, but he also encouraged students to sign up for the city’s own alerts.

In a memo sent to the City Council on Thursday, Moorhead City Manager Michael Redlinger said snow removals declarations will now be made at 8 a.m. the day before the rules are effective. A snow removal declaration will not be issued after every snowfall, “nor is there a specific amount of snow that will cause the City to issue” one, Redlinger said.

The city has revised their snow district brochure, he said, after receiving some complaints that the rules were not clearly stated. The new brochure will be mailed to affected residents and is available online.

MSUM officials also decided to no longer ticket in their general parking lots during towing days, Wahlberg said. Reserved and metered lots do not apply for the free parking on those days, he said.

Concordia College had few problems with the first snow removal declaration, and so they are not making any major changes, Redlinger said in his memo.

Wahlberg suggested that students park for free at the Moorhead Center Mall, and then take MATBUS Route 2 to campus. The five minute bus ride is free for MSUM and Concordia students, as long as they show their student ID to the driver.

During the previous snow removal, police officers placed courtesy warning tickets on those cars that would be towed if they were not moved. But after the towing blitz, the city received complaints that the tickets contained incorrect information about the parking restrictions.

“We won’t be doing the warning tags (anymore),” Lt. Tory Jacobson said. “There’s been enough attention on this.”

How to avoid the tow truck in Moorhead’s snow district

1. Anyone can sign up for city of Moorhead alerts at www.cityofmoorhead.com/snowdistrict.

2. Students can sign up for email and text alerts from their school.

3. Review the revised snow district map and check to see if a snow removal declaration is in effect at www.cityofmoorhead.com/snowdistrict.

4. Remember, the side of the road with even addresses is off-limits the first day and the side with the odd addresses is restricted on the second day.

5. Pay attention: The city will now be declaring a snow removal by 8 a.m. the day before towing starts. The previous policy was to announce it by the afternoon the day prior to the snow rules being in effect.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518

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