FARGO - The second half of what the National Weather Service billed as a "one-two punch" winter storm system packed a wallop this morning, creating blizzard-like conditions that prompted Fargo-Moorhead area schools to close and snowplow drivers to pull off of highways until daylight because of poor visibility.
The weather service in Grand Forks has a blizzard warning in effect until 6 p.m. today for most of eastern North Dakota and parts of northwest and west-central Minnesota.
Total snow accumulations of 1 to 4 inches are expected before the storm subsides this evening, the weather service said. Winds of 25 to 35 mph with gusts to around 45 mph are possible.
The North Dakota Department of Transportation and state Highway Patrol extended a no travel advisory for all state highways in northeast and north-central North Dakota, including the cities of Devils Lake, Grafton, Grand Forks and Minot because of extremely high winds creating reduced visibility and zero visibility at times. A no travel advisory also is in effect for southwest North Dakota, while a travel alert is in effect for the rest of the state.
Fargo, West Fargo and Moorhead schools all closed today, as did the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks. North Dakota State University's Web site said the university remained in "full operation" but was monitoring the storm.
Bruce Nord, maintenance superintendent for the North Dakota Department of Transportation, said plows weren't officially pulled from roads, but drivers in the Hillsboro and Wahpeton areas were pulling off until daylight because they couldn't see far enough in front of their plows.
"For right now, visibility is really tough out there," he said.
Roads in the F-M metro area had scattered icy spots from freezing rain over the weekend, and Nord advised people not to travel until conditions improve.
"With this wind, we're trying to do some sanding, but the sand blows off the road as quick as it comes out of the truck," he said.
The Minnesota Department of Transportation also reported difficult driving conditions across much of northern Minne-sota because of blowing snow.
"Right now, we're getting a lot of blowing and drifting snow. There's a lot of pillow drifts on the roads. Visibility is probably a quarter-mile. In some places, it's almost white-out conditions," said Dennis Redig, maintenance superintendent in MnDOT's west-central district.