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Anna G. Larson, Published February 17 2013

One dead in crash near Hillsboro; three injured in separate I-29 accident

FARGO – Roads proved treacherous on Sunday when blowing snow and icy patches led to dozens of accidents and one fatality in the Red River Valley.

One man died after losing control of his car at 3 p.m. Sunday on Interstate 29 near Hillsboro.

The driver, Dennis Lee Johnson, from Cedar, Minn., was ejected from his vehicle after striking the side of a semi-trailer and entering the median. He was not wearing a seat belt.

The driver of the semi, Kevin Fogarty, of Winnipeg, did not have any injuries.

Also on I-29, Devon Scott Stephens lost control of a car at about 4 p.m. while going 75 mph on Exit 50.

The car spun into the patrol car of state Trooper Joe Liebl, who was conducting a crash investigation of a one-vehicle rollover. Liebl’s emergency lights were activated.

Mark and Kimberly Cramton, of Fargo, were in Liebl’s patrol car as Stephens’ vehicle struck the driver’s side.

Stephens and the Cramtons were transported to Essentia for minor injuries. Liebl did not have any injuries.

Capt. Brian Niewind of the North Dakota Highway Patrol urges drivers to reduce their speeds on the road under the icy, windy conditions that are expected to continue today.

“People need to be aware that in North Dakota, the weather can change every hundred feet,” he said.

Accidents were reported all day Sunday in the Red River Valley.

Niewind said drivers should not use cruise control when road conditions are so dangerous.

Both crashes remain under investigation by the Highway Patrol.

Bill Barrett, a meteorologist technician with the National Weather Service, said just an inch or two of blowing snow can create hazardous driving conditions.

“Driving the speed limit could get you in trouble,” Barrett says.

A clipper system is expected to move into the area today.

Barrett said the Grand Forks area will see more significant snow than the

F-M area, although nothing is certain. He expects the system to move toward Bemidji, Minn.

“There’s going to be some snow, maybe not much in the Fargo area though,” he says.

High wind speeds will play a role in weather conditions, but how “crusted over” the existing snow is will also affect driving conditions. Loose snow could drift and blow, creating problematic conditions, he said.

WDAY chief meteorologist John Wheeler said the area could expect strong winds today and “deteriorating conditions.”

Winter weather advisories, blizzard warnings and watches and winter storm warnings and watches were issued Sunday for most of eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota.

The advisories, watches and warnings remain in effect through most of the day today. Cass and Clay counties are under a blizzard watch until 6 p.m.

A no-travel advisory was released Sunday night for portions of northwest North Dakota, including Crosby, Bowbells and surrounding areas.

For the latest road conditions, dial 5-1-1 or check the North Dakota and Minnesota departments of transportation websites.

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Readers can reach Forum reporter Anna G. Larson at (701) 241-5525