Winter whooshes in: Blizzard closes schools, delays flights and slickens roads
FARGO — A blizzard that blew through the Fargo-Moorhead area Monday, Dec. 4, didn't dump as much snow here as expected, but fierce winds and worries about white-out conditions on rural roads closed many schools early, canceled or delayed flights at Hector International Airport, and greased up roads and highways for the evening rush hour.
"It was a blizzard," WDAY-TV Chief Meteorologist John Wheeler said Monday evening.
He said the F-M area had received 1.4 inches of snow by 10 p.m., short of the 3 to 6 inches many forecasters had expected.
The heavy snow for North Dakota was in the Jamestown area northeast to Grand Forks, which had a number of sites record 3 to 6 inches, Wheeler said. Most of the southern Red River Valley got an inch or two of snow.
"This one was a really tough one to forecast," Wheeler said.
A blizzard is defined as snow or blowing snow with sustained wind speeds of 35 mph or frequent gusts higher than 35 mph and visibility of less than a quarter mile for at least three hours.
While Tuesday will be sunnier, it will be colder and remain windy for much of the day, the National Weather Service forecasts.
The F-M area should have partly sunny skies, with brisk 24- to 32-mph winds gusting up to 46 mph. The high temperature should be about 18 degrees and a low around 10 degrees.
Wednesday's forecast calls for sunny skies with a high near 19 and an overnight low dipping to 2 degrees.
Snow heavier to north
A band of snow chugged through the F-M metro area at the peak of the evening rush hour, said NWS meteorologist Brad Hopkins, and winds gusted up to 49 mph in some areas, causing whiteout conditions.
The Moorhead and West Fargo school districts and Park Christian School sent students home early Monday. The Fargo School District, Oak Grove Lutheran School, and the St. John Paul II Catholic Schools Network all continued classes through the normal school day. But all metro schools cancelled evening events and activities.
Grand Forks had 4.7 inches of snow by 4 p.m. Monday, the NWS reported. Elsewhere in North Dakota, Hope had 5.9 inches of snow by early evening, Sharon about 4 inches, and Cavalier about 2 inches.
Areas of northwestern Minnesota saw heavy snow by Monday evening. Holt in Marshall County reported 9 inches and Skime near the Roseau County line had 10 inches, with snow still falling, said NWS Meteorologist Vince Godon. Fisher and a station south of Baudette accumulated 5 inches by late afternoon.
Godon said the strong winds would slowly diminish Tuesday.
At Fargo's Hector International Airport, several flights to and from Chicago were cancelled Monday, while a couple flights to Las Vegas and Minneapolis were listed as delayed on the airport's website.
Roads throughout the Red River Valley were slick Monday morning, primed with freezing rain in spots before the snow arrived
Monday afternoon, a westbound semi tractor-trailer rig ended up in the ditch on Interstate 94 just west of the intersection with Interstate 29. The semi remained upright, but broke one of the supports for a large directional road sign.
A North Dakota Highway Patrol dispatcher said nine crashes had been recorded in Cass County through mid-afternoon Monday.
Sgt Jesse Grabow of the Minnesota State Patrol said the Minnesota side of the Red River didn't see a large number of crashes, and many drivers who had spun out into medians and ditches were able to drive out.
Grabow urged drivers to follow road and weather reports.
"Don't put your personal schedule ahead of safety," Grabow said. "Be prepared. Have a good cold weather kit in the car. Warm clothing."