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20 years ago, Blizzard Andy's arrival set the stage for the Flood of 1997

GRAND FORKS - It all started 20 years ago today, the first in a string of eight blizzards that culminated in the Red River Flood of 1997.Blizzard Andy, named by the Grand Forks Herald newspaper, and it dumped 12 inches of snow on Grand Forks and ...

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GRAND FORKS - It all started 20 years ago today, the first in a string of eight blizzards that culminated in the Red River Flood of 1997.

Blizzard Andy, named by the Grand Forks Herald newspaper, and it dumped 12 inches of snow on Grand Forks and East Grand Forks.

Buffeted by 45 mph winds, Andy whipped up a frenzy of white that created near-zero visibility and brought the region to a screeching halt.

To make matters worse, the storm hit on a Saturday night on the opening weekend of deer season, and the UND men's hockey team was playing a home series against St. Cloud State. UND won the game 5-3 that night, avenging a 5-2 loss the previous evening, but anyone who attended from out of town probably didn't get home.

The North Dakota Highway Patrol closed Interstate 29 at 10 p.m. Nov. 16, and the highway didn't reopen until 3 p.m. the next day.

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According to newspaper archives, the Highway Patrol reported "zero visibilities remained Sunday evening from Drayton to Pembina."

U.S. Highway 2 remained open, but authorities advised no travel.

In Grand Forks, city streets were strewn with abandoned cars in Andy's wake, causing delays in clearing the streets. Towing companies did banner business.

The newspaper, which traditionally has named blizzards, reported the storm was part of a strong weather system stretching from Oklahoma to Canada. Grand Forks missed the first wave of the storm, which hit Nov. 15, but luck ran out with Andy's arrival.

As winter storms go, Andy was one mean dude.

The storm also resulted in three fatalities. Icy roads from the storm's first wave resulted in a two-vehicle accident about 5:45 p.m. Nov. 15 on state Highway 11 west of Greenbush, Minn. Killed were Shana Cieklinski, 24, of Karlstad, Minn., and Gang Li, 37, of Grand Forks.

In Grand Forks, UND student Francis Delabreau was walking home from a party early Nov. 17 during the teeth of Blizzard Andy when he sought shelter in an abandoned van during the 25-block hike.

His body wasn't found until Jan. 4.

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Andy was the first and worst of the eight blizzards-in terms of snowfall, at least-to pound the Grand Forks area during the next five months.

The other eight blizzards that set the stage for the 1997 flood five months later were:

• Betty: Dec. 16-18, 8.7 inches.

• Christopher: Dec. 20, 4.2 inches.

• Doris: Jan. 9-11, 8.8 inches.

• Elmo: Jan. 14-16, 0.4 inches.

• Franzi: Jan. 22-23, 8.6 inches.

• Gust: March 4, 0.2 inches.

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• Hannah: April 4-6, 6.3 inches.

No one could have known it at the time, but Andy was the first jolt in what would prove to be a very bumpy ride, culminating in the mass mass evacuation of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks that occurred April 18 and April 19, 1997.

Related Topics: RED RIVER1997 FLOODWEATHER
Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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