'Too early for this'
Sgt. Dave Wolf was supposed to start work at 10 a.m. Monday, but by 6:30 a.m. his fellow North Dakota Highway Patrol troopers were so swamped with accidents he got called in early.
"This is too early for this, I think," Wolf said - and he wasn't referring to the time of day.
Wolf wasn't alone in his surprise at the mid-October snowfall and low temperatures that combined Monday to coat bridges and overpasses in ice, leading to eight accidents in just over an hour on interstates 29 and 94 in Fargo and West Fargo. No one was seriously injured, he said.
Snow and ice were factors in a crash east of Bismarck on Interstate 94 that killed a Wyoming man early Monday.
The patrol said the 56-year-old victim from Cody, Wyo., was a passenger in a pickup driven by another Cody man that overturned about 6:15 a.m. Monday between Bismarck and Steele. The man's name was not immediately released.
Authorities also said three women from Menomonie, Wis., were treated and released in Grand Forks after their pickup hit ice on an Interstate 29 bridge in Walsh County.
The Minnesota State Patrol responded to at least six accidents from 6 to 8 a.m. Monday, none of them involving serious injuries, a dispatcher said.
Drivers may encounter more slick conditions in the coming days: The National Weather Service predicted a 50 percent chance of snow tonight and a 30 percent chance of snow and rain Wednesday and Thursday morning.
"Winter's here. You've got to slow down," said Bruce Nord, maintenance superintendent with the North Dakota Department of Transportation.
A surprise snow squall and an unanticipated drop in temperature were to blame for Monday's icy conditions, Nord said.
The DOT dispatched trucks to sand bridges and overpasses, which iced over as the air temperature hung around 30 degrees.
"The roadway itself was just wet, and then you'd come up to a bridge deck or overpass and it was slick, so people were losing control of their vehicles," Wolf said.
The occupants of one vehicle that rolled on I-29 near Fleet Farm in south Fargo were trapped in the vehicle, but no one was injured, Wolf said. A construction trailer being pulled by a pickup slid off I-94 in West Fargo and tipped over, but the pickup remained upright, he said.
The Highway Patrol advises motorists to be aware of traffic conditions and adjust their driving accordingly, he said.
"Who would expect a morning like this? I guess I didn't even anticipate something like this," Wolf said. "But the driving conditions can change day to day, and just be aware of what's in front of you."
The weather service forecast calls for high temperatures to return to the 50s this weekend.