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Forum staff reports, Published March 18 2013

UPDATED: Snow, blowing snow create hazardous driving conditions; schools closed

FARGO – A blizzard warning is still in effect until this evening for much of eastern North Dakota and west-central Minnesota, with snow and blowing snow creating hazardous driving conditions this morning.

The National Weather Service predicted strong northwest winds, with gusts up to 45 mph, and snow continuing through the morning hours, gradually ending west to east this afternoon.

Total accumulations of 4 to 8 inches were expected across much of the region by this evening. Higher amounts of 6 to 10 inches were likely across portions of northwest Minnesota.

Just before 11 p.m. Sunday, Minnesota Department of Transportation officials closed Interstate 94 between Moorhead and Alexandria; Highway 10 between Moorhead and Audubon; and Highway 210 between Breckenridge and Fergus Falls.

They remained closed this morning.

Schools were closed in a number of communities in the region today, including Fargo, Moorhead, West Fargo and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton.

The campuses of North Dakota State University, Concordia, Minnesota State University Moorhead and Minnesota State Community and Technical College-Moorhead are all closed today.

Drivers hitting the road for their morning take their time, said Moorhead Police Sgt. Toby Krone, after a night spent by police and state troopers rescuing stuck drivers.

One of the stuck vehicles included a Moorhead police squad car along one of the city’s main thoroughfares on the south side, Krone said this morning.

“The winds are picking up, and while the plows have been keeping up pretty well, the wind may change how well they can – and some of those roads are still going to be impassible,” Krone said.

He said during his morning commute, First Avenue north in Moorhead had already been plowed, but there were still large drifts left for drivers to contend with.

People in about 25 stranded cars on Interstate 29 between Fargo and Wahpeton had to be rescued overnight, said Capt. Bryan Niewind of the North Dakota Highway Patrol. Two people also had to be rescued about midnight at exit 37 along I-29, he said.

Niewind said plows were helped somewhat by light rain that fell overnight. It created a crust on the snowdrifts and improved visibility that had been impaired by blowing snow.

Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow was out and about at 8 a.m. looking for drivers who had gone around the barricade along Interstate 94 between Moorhead and Alexandria. The interstate there remained closed to morning commuters, as well as Highways 10 and 210.

Grabow counted 50 cars that were stranded from the time the storm hit Sunday evening to early this morning. He said the only vehicles still stranded were two or three semis waiting to be hauled out after being stranded on Sunday.

In Fargo-Moorhead, MATBUS fixed routes and MAT Paratransit services will start three hours late this morning, with services beginning at 9:15. The Ground Transportation Center is scheduled to open at 9 a.m.

The wind today combined with new snow will cause white-out conditions in some parts of the region, according to the National Weather Service.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation late Sunday issued travel alerts for many parts of North Dakota – including the cities of Jamestown, Valley City, Edgeley, Ellendale, Fargo and Wahpeton – due to blowing and drifting snow that was creating icy conditions and reduced visibility.

The Clay County Sheriff’s Department has advised no travel.

Drivers who do venture out are encouraged to reduce speeds and drive according to the conditions.