FARGO – Strong winds and blowing snow on Tuesday, Dec. 6, prompted the North Dakota Department of Transportation and the North Dakota Highway Patrol to close Interstate 94 between Fargo and Dickinson, while Interstate 29 was closed between Fargo and the Canadian border for much of the day.
Both interstates reopened Wednesday morning, Dec. 7.
The closings filled metro-area truck stops with big rigs forced to park until the interstates were safe enough to lift the snow gates.
At the Petro Travel Center at 4510 19th Ave. S.W., just west of the I-29 and I-94 interchange, Edd Voss was munching a doughnut and watching a television news program with a dozen other truckers and stranded motorists.
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- ND Highway Patrol stopping all westbound commerical traffic on I-94
- Area sporting events postponed due to weather
- No travel alert issued for most of ND; I-94 closed from Valley City to Dickinson
“I’ve been doing this for 27 years. I’d much rather be sitting here than stuck in the middle of nowhere,” said Voss, of Springdale, Wash. It’s always better if you’ve got a safe place to park. I’ll get a good night’s sleep, and take off in the morning.”
Voss was running his big blue semi and a lowboy trailer out to Williston, N.D., to pick up some heavy equipment and take it to Oregon.
The trucker is also an author, and since he wasn’t on the road, he said he’d work on his next book during the downtime.
“Last year, I got stuck in the blizzard in Baltimore (Md.),” Voss said. “It took three days to dig out. It’s all part of the game.”
Nearby, Brad Conkright and Jim Mooney, both of Illinois, sat at a table comparing notes.
“It’s the first time I’ve ever had a (highway) gate shut on me,” said Conkright, who has been a professional driver for 23 years.
Conkright normally travels to Tennessee and Kentucky, where ice, rather than snow, is more of a problem.
“The wind is a killer,” Conkright said.
Mooney has been driving trucks for 37 years. For the last 9½ years, he’s dropped off tires for Bridgestone in a loop from Sioux Falls to Pierre, S.D., then up to Bismarck and Dickinson, N.D., before working his way east.
“This winter has gotten an early start,” Mooney said.
“Our reserve truck parking is full. It’s plum full,” said Steven Horn, the Petro convenience store manager. The laundry and shower facilities were full and the restaurant was busy, he said.
Grand Forks had received 13 inches of snow by Tuesday evening and snow was still falling, said John Wheeler, chief meteorologist at WDAY-TV. There were estimates of 16 inches of snow in the Carrington area, while Hatton had about 12.5 inches and Northwood 11.8 inches, Wheeler said. In northwest Minnesota, Fisher had 9.5 inches of snow, Warren, Lancaster and Alvarado had 9 inches, and Karlstad about 8.5 inches, he said.
The Fargo-Moorhead area picked up 1.7 inches of snow by 6 p.m. Tuesday. That was consistent with what WDAY had forecast for this storm for several days, Wheeler said. He said snow showers overnight would add less than an inch to the F-M snowfall total.
Wheeler said another 2 to 5 inches of snow could fall north and east of Grand Forks Tuesday night
Average wind speeds were more than 30 mph in the region Tuesday, with gusts as high as 44 mph in Grand Forks, 49 mph in Fargo, and 56 mph in Jamestown, Wheeler said.
The strong winds shut down airline flights into and out of Fargo’s Hector International Airport, said Darren Anderson, the airport’s assistant director.
Anderson said a United Airlines flight inbound to Fargo about 4 p.m. made it to about Fergus Falls, Minn., before it turned around and headed back for Minneapolis.
WDAY meteorologist Aaron White said city driving was good, but rural driving was another matter.
“Definitely, out in the country, that’s where visibility drops tremendously. We have reports of visibility near zero in many locations,” White said.
Next up is a dose of cold that will be a shock to the system after a warm November.
“The icebox is going to open,” Wheeler said. “We’re looking at a good shot of measurable snow this weekend, followed by icebox No. 2.”
In the F-M area, WDAY’s forecast for Wednesday is windy with a high of 17 and a low of 14. Thursday will still be breezy, with a high of 14 and a low of 12. Friday will have a high of about 6 and a low around 0.
WDAY calls for a return of snow on Saturday, with a high of 17 and a low of minus 4. The snow is expected to end Sunday, with temps steady at about 10 degrees. Then Monday’s high dips to 2 degrees, with a low of minus 7, while Tuesday will start with a high of minus 4 and dip to minus 9.
The Moorhead School District, Minnesota State University Moorhead and North Dakota State University all closed early Tuesday afternoon. The Fargo School District canceled all of its after-school activities.