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Published February 09 2013

Blizzard warning area now includes Fargo-Moorhead; some places could get foot or more of snow

FARGO – A blizzard watch for the Fargo-Moorhead area has been upgraded to a blizzard warning as a winter storm threatening to dump a foot or more of snow in some places continues to bear down on the region.

The blizzard warning will be in effect from 6 a.m. Sunday to noon Monday.

“It’s going to take a while to get out of here,” said Pete Rogers, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Grand Forks.

The F-M area is expected to receive about 9 inches of snow, though NWS forecast models show localized amounts of 12 inches or more possible across southeast North Dakota and west-central Minnesota, Rogers said.

Forecasters are less confident about where the band of heavy snow will taper off. The Grand Forks area was in a blizzard watch, while counties in the far northern Red River Valley were in a winter storm watch.

“There’s probably going to be a pretty sharp cutoff in snow amounts from quite a bit to not much at all,” Rogers said.

The blizzard warning covers 10 counties in southeastern North Dakota, as well as Clay and Wilkin counties and parts of Becker and Otter Tail counties in Minnesota.

Snowfall will spread into those areas late tonight and spread northward during the day on Sunday. Winds will increase to 25 to 35 mph in the valley Sunday afternoon into Sunday night, and blowing snow will greatly reduce visibility, the weather service said.

Rogers urged people with travel plans on Sunday to consult their state transportation departments for the latest road condition reports.

University of North Dakota hockey fans who traveled to Omaha, Neb., for this weekend’s series “may have a hard time getting back tomorrow,” he added.

Fargo Public Works Director Ben Dow said shifts were moved from Friday to Sunday to bolster staffing levels for the storm, and roads were pretreated Thursday and Friday with anti-icing chemicals.

“We started prepping for this one about Wednesday,” he said.

City forestry staff and those who work on water mains and hydrants were called upon to help out with the storm, adding 16 people to the street department’s crew of 38. Mechanics from the city’s central garage also will operate sanders, Dow said.

Snowplow operators will focus on keeping emergency routes clear, but if the storm turns into a 24-hour ordeal, crews will try to make at least one pass through neighborhoods, Dow said.

“We haven’t had a good one like this for two years, and we have a lot of new development that took place and a lot of new homes out there in areas that are in the wide open and really going to be susceptible to some high drifts and stuff like that,” he said. “But we will run around the clock, and we will not pull our plows.”

Dow said he anticipates having to use snow blowers to keep some roads open.

“We want residents to really listen for announcements if we start closing roads down,” he said, noting 19th Avenue North is often one of the first to close.

In Moorhead, plows may not reach residential areas until Monday morning, Director of Operations Chad Martin said.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to get to residentials, because if it’s still coming down, we won’t be able to keep up with it. I mean, we’ll just get buried,” he said. “So we’ll keep the emergency routes open at that point, and then when it starts to peter out as far as the snow stopping, then we’ll start to clean.”