Spring storm blankets N.D. on March 22-23

2011-03-23T06:54:00Z Spring storm blankets N.D. on March 22-23By LEANN ECKROTH and LAUREN DONOVAN, Bismarck Tribune | Minnesota Farm Guide

The second full day of spring proved anything but seasonal for North Dakotans who battled a Tuesday storm that dumped 5 1/2 inches of snow along with rain and wind in Bismarck by late evening, and a foot or more in other parts of the state.

The storm pelted central and western North Dakota full throttle, making travel condition treacherous.

At 8 p.m. Tuesday, Minot had received up to 8 inches of snow, and Jamestown and Dickinson had 4 inches each, said Tony Merriman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Bismarck. He said just south of Butte, a foot of snow had been reported from the storm system.

"There's a heavy band settling in north of Bismarck. We could see 5 to 8 more inches of snow," Merriman said.

Minot and Jamestown could see up to 8 inches more, he said.

"It's been quite an event. Hopefully, it's the last one," Merriman said. "It should taper off by tomorrow (Wednesday) afternoon from the northeast to the southwest. Bismarck should clear out by 3 p.m."

Areas along the North Dakota-South Dakota border could linger until late Wednesday afternoon, Merriman said. The wind would continue to weaken overnight, he said.

Shortly before 8 p.m. Tuesday, the Bismarck Police Department advised no travel in the city.

Emergency officials responded to the report of a downed power line at 412 River Road in Bismarck shortly after 8 p.m. Bismarck Police Sgt. Jason Stugelmeyer, said he had not been notified of any injuries.

"It happened on some trees to the east across the street. Our reports said it was smoking and sparking," Stugelmeyer said. He said Montana Dakota Utilities crews were called in to shut down the power.

Several accidents were reported around rush hour after 4 p.m., but the pace had slowed later Tuesday evening, Stugelmeyer said. "We're using our SUVs to get around," he said.

Roads were closed on U.S. Highway 83 from Bismarck to Minot, and Interstate 94 from Bismarck to Fargo, reported Capt. Eric Pederson of the North Dakota Highway Patrol. He said U.S. 2 between Minot and Rugby also was shut down.

"We have no idea when the roads will open again," he said Tuesday evening. "I anticipate the highway department is going to need time to clear these and open them."

He said there were about a dozen reports of vehicles in the ditch and about half a dozen crashes, but no serious injuries due to driving too fast with poor visibility.

"When we get into March, the atmosphere is trying to move spring, but winter is trying to move in too in the mid- to upper parts of the atmosphere," said Ken Simosko, also a meteorologist at the NWS.

Roads were icy from early-morning rain, snow-covered and visibility was severely restricted with the heavy spring snowstorm. Strong east winds caused blowing snow and made it difficult to see the roadway, especially in rural areas.

Just after 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, the state Department of Transportation issued a "no travel" advisory for the entire southwestern region.

Killdeer Public School sent students home Tuesday morning. Hazen and Beulah school buses were sent out to return rural students to their homes.

Schools in Washburn and Wilton released children by afternoon. Washburn buses did not make the return route when school was dismissed at 12:30 p.m.

Both Washburn and Wilton schools have announced that school will start two hours late Wednesday.

Parents of Center-Stanton schoolchildren were advised Monday evening that buses would run Tuesday morning, but not Tuesday afternoon and possibly not Wednesday morning, depending on the length and severity of the storm. Rural children either remained home, or made arrangements with a "storm" family.

Mercer County Sheriff Dean Danzeisen said highway speeds were slowed to 30 mph, with slippery conditions and visibility down to an eighth of a mile.

He said Coal County power plants and coal mines were notified of the "no travel" advisory.

The city of Dickinson declared a snow emergency and advised no travel within city limits. By early Tuesday afternoon, all non-emergency city operations were closed, including City Hall, but conditions improved by evening.

Power outages were reported in Wishek, Zeeland, Venturia, Zap, Lehr, Fredonia and Golden Valley, said Mark Hanson, spokesman for MDU. He could not provide counts on the number of customers affected late Tuesday afternoon, but believed most had service restored.

"It ranged from spot outages to longer," he said. "It was mostly due to ice on the lines and the effect of the weather."

Bismarck kept most of its transportation services running on Tuesday.

Bismarck Airport Manager Greg Haug said early Tuesday evening that two flights were canceled.

Taxi 9000 stopped taking riders at 8 p.m. Tuesday after drivers started getting stuck. Bis-Man Transit buses limited their service to returning handicapped riders home, said a spokeswoman from Taxi 9000.

Robin Werre, director of Bis-Man Transit, said earlier Tuesday that a bus from Minot to Bismarck was canceled.

Afternoon flights were canceled in Minot due to strong winds, low visibility and icy conditions, said airport manager Andy Solsvig.

Flood risks

Allen Schlag, hydrologist for the NWS, said there was minor flooding along parts of the Heart River, Cedar Creek and Cannonball River, but Tuesday's severe weather was not contributing to flood risks.

In fact, cooler temperatures through early next week are expected to slow the melt, he said.

"There are ice jams along the Heart River from the trolley area and back four miles," Schlag said. "But the water is flowing pretty good through there."

He said Cedar Creek in Adams, Sioux and Grant counties and the Cannonball were elevated to just above flood stage on Tuesday due to ice jams

"I've heard no reports of homes being flooded; it's been mostly pasture and farm land," Schlag said. It didn't block any access for roads or bridges, he said.

"In most areas, the water is moving pretty good," Schlag said.

He said the cooler temperatures seemed to lower the flood risks for Apple and Beaver creeks for another week. "There are no signs of ice problems on Apple Creek; Beaver Creek is below flood state," Schlag said.

He said he would issue his new hydrology report Friday and forecast how this weather event would impact the flood outlook.

Burleigh County Emergency Manager Mary Senger said she was unaware of any immediate flood conditions at Apple Creek and had received no requests for sandbag materials. A sandbag site had been removed to keep them dry for future use.

She said gauges along Apple Creek continued to be monitored, but showed no flood threat Tuesday afternoon.

(The Associated Press contributed to this story. Reach reporter LeAnn Eckroth at 250-8264 or leann.eckroth@bismarcktribune.com.)

Copyright 2016 Minnesota Farm Guide. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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