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Kevin Bonham and Charly Haley, Forum News Service, Published March 22 2014

Snowstorm causes power outages, accidents in northern Red River Valley

Stormy weather Friday resulted in icy roads, several vehicle accidents and a series of power outages that left about 1,200 Xcel Energy customers in Grand Forks without power.

The largest power outage, which occurred shortly before 6 a.m., affected about 1,000 customers in north Grand Forks for about two hours and 20 minutes, according to Mark Nisbet, Xcel area manager for North Dakota.

That outage, which affected the area north of DeMers Avenue and west of Washington Street, was from a downed wire caused by ice buildup and winds that gusted to more than 40 mph, according to Nisbet.

Another half-dozen smaller outages had been reported in various parts of the city.

Three Xcel crews from Fargo were dispatched to Grand Forks to help restore power, he said.

Travel advisories were issued Friday morning for all of northeastern North Dakota, including areas around the cities of Grand Forks, Grafton and Pembina, N.D., as well as western Marshall and southern Kittson counties in northwestern Minnesota.

Minnesota Highway 1 was closed Friday between Oslo and Warren, Minn., until 4:30 p.m.

Meanwhile, police and rescue crews responded to a rash of vehicle accidents, including rollovers.

North Dakota Highway Patrol responded to at least three property crashes and 10 to 12 vehicles in ditches, said Lt. David Wolf.

One accident was a semitrailer that jackknifed along U.S. Highway 2 between East Grand Forks and the Fisher’s Landing Travel Center at Fisher, Minn., before 8 a.m.

No one was injured in the accidents, Wolf said.

The majority of the reduced visibility was on Interstate 29 north of Grand Forks and U.S. Highway 2 west of the city, Wolf said. A no-travel advisory for Highway 2 was lifted at 3:20 p.m.

The weather also prompted the city of Grand Forks to issue a warning for drivers to be careful driving through intersections with traffic lights, because many of the lights were covered with snow as of 5 p.m.

Wind from the storm made it dangerous for city crews to immediately clean the lights, according to the city.

By Friday evening, the storm had let up in Grand Forks, but a blizzard warning stood until 7 p.m. for Grand Forks County and Walsh County because of blizzard-like conditions in eastern Walsh and far north Grand Forks counties, said Vince Godon, meteorologist with the weather service office in Grand Forks.

The worst-affected areas in the northern valley received about 6 to 7 inches of snow, Godon said, while only about half an inch of snow fell in Grand Forks.