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John Lamb, Published April 14 2013

WILL IT EVER END?: Storm drops more than foot of snow on western ND, causes multiple crashes in Minnesota

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FARGO – The latest winter storm rolled in later than expected but lived up to most expectations.

Heavy snowfalls in the western part of the state and high winds led to Interstate 94 being closed from Montana to Mandan most of the day. By 6 p.m., all of I-94 was closed, as was Interstate 29 from Fargo to Grand Forks. At 8:45 p.m. a no-travel advisory was issued for all of the state south of and including U.S. Highway 2. Areas north of U.S. Highway 2 were included in a travel alert.

I-29 reopened at 10 p.m., though no travel was advised on the stretch.

As predicted, the Bismarck area saw the most snowfall, with Lincoln, in southeast Burleigh County, topping out at 19.4 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Grand Forks.

By 7 p.m., Bismarck had received 15.8 inches.

The bad weather prompted the North Dakota Legislature to cancel its session today. Lawmakers planned to resume work Tuesday.

The snow was less farther east but still created trouble.

Valley City received 6.5 inches by 7 p.m. prompting officials to close all schools and Valley City State University.

Barnes County North, Finley-Sharon, Hope-Page and Maple Valley, Montpelier and Pingree-Buchanan also canceled school for today. As of 10 p.m., many other schools in eastern North Dakota planned to start two hours late.

In the Fargo area, Fargo and West Fargo announced schools and buses would start two hours late as the metro area received 5.1 inches of snow by 10 p.m.

Minnesota State University Moorhead announced on its Facebook page that the school would open at 10 a.m.

“We’ve still got a ways to go,” John Hoppes, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, said around 8 p.m.

He said snow was expected to fall through the night but would taper off by morning, with light snow through the afternoon.

He estimated most of the Red River Valley getting 6 inches or better, but didn’t foresee troubles with drifting.

“The snow is going to be fairly wet, so I don’t think there will be all that much drifting,” he said.

The weather was bad enough for three of the five late flights into Fargo’s Hector International Airport to be canceled by 9 p.m.

While I-94 was closed in North Dakota, it remained open in Minnesota as of 8 p.m., and that led to a lot of accidents.

Sgt. Jesse Grabow, public information officer of the Northwestern Minnesota State Patrol based out of Detroit Lakes, said there were 14 crashes in the area and 46 cases of vehicles going off the road.

The worst accident was near Barnesville, where an eastbound trailer hauling pigs jackknifed and went into the ditch. That accident led to a chain reaction that included two other semis, one hauling cattle, and four other vehicles colliding.

While there were no serious injuries, the incident created a major obstacle and eastbound traffic had to be routed off I-94 at Exit 24 and back on at Exit 32.

“It was a mess,” Grabow said around 8 p.m., as the livestock was still being gathered onto trucks and the trailers being moved so the lanes could open. “It’s definitely one of the worst I’ve seen, and I’ve been out here for 15 years.”

Grabow posted pictures of the scene, including the pigs milling about, to his Twitter account.

Sgt. Dave Wolf of the North Dakota Highway Patrol reported seven crashes and 15 cars in ditches around the state, but no major accidents. He attributed the relatively low number to interstates being shut down early and travel advisories being issued.


Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533