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Lion's roar: Early March storm breaks 122-year-old daily snowfall record

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North Dakota State University freshman Sean Braun clears heavy, wet snow from his car on Monday, March 5, 2018.David Samson / The Forum2 / 2

FARGO — The Fargo area surpassed two daily precipitation records on Monday, March 5, as a winter storm shut down schools and offices with a heavy, historic snowfall.

Fargo had 5.5 inches of snow by Monday afternoon, breaking a 122-year-old snowfall record of 4.5 inches set on March 5, 1896, said Nicholas Carletta, a National Weather Service meteorologist. Also, Monday's rain total of .83 inches broke a rainfall record of .77 inches set on March 5, 1992.

"Fargo as a whole so far this winter hasn't got a lot of snowfall. This helps remove some of that deficit for precipitation recently and contribute to more of a good thing with drought conditions," Carletta said.

But the storm brought on the bad, too. By 4:30 p.m. Monday, there were 168 crashes — 18 of them with injuries, though none serious or fatal — across Minnesota, according to the state patrol. Another 253 vehicles spun out and six semis jackknifed on slick roads from Moorhead to the Twin Cities.

"I think we can say that March is coming in like a lion," said patrol spokesman Sgt. Jesse Grabow.

On the North Dakota side of the Red River, there were no crashes on Cass County highways, but six to eight vehicles had slid into the ditch. Some commercial vehicles had also jackknifed further west in Barnes and Stutsman counties, said Capt. Bryan Niewind of the North Dakota Highway Patrol.

Niewind said the interstates were in good shape, but dropping temperatures overnight could make wet, slushy roads turn icy for the morning commute.

Moorhead streets had all gotten a pass by snowplows by Monday evening, said public works director Steve Moore. Plows would be back out about 2 a.m. to clean up whatever else the storm dropped Monday night, he said.

Ben Dow, Fargo's public works director, said crews should finish with plowing by mid-morning Tuesday. Primary and secondary roads should be in good condition, he said, but residential areas will probably be slippery for a couple of days.

Looking ahead to the rest of the week, significant precipitation is not in the forecast for Fargo-Moorhead until possibly Friday evening, and until then conditions should be dry with partly sunny or cloudy skies. There is a chance for some flurries but likely no accumulation.

Highs will remain in the upper 20s, with lows in the upper single digits and low teens.

Helmut Schmidt

Helmut Schmidt was born in Germany, but grew up in the Twin Cities area, graduating from Park High School of Cottage Grove. After serving a tour in the U.S. Army, he attended the University of St. Thomas in St Paul, Minn., graduating in 1984 with a degree in journalism. He then worked at the Albert Lea (Minn.) Tribune and served as managing editor there for three years. He joined The Forum in October 1989, working as a copy editor until 2000. Since then, he has worked as a reporter on several beats, including education, Fargo city government, business and military affairs. He is currently The Forum's K-12 education reporter.

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