FARGO — Cass County Sheriff Jesse Jahner said it appears area residents were hunkering down at home Thursday night, April 11, as a strong spring blizzard was making its presence known across the region.
He said there were at least six vehicles that went into the ditch earlier on Thursday, especially as people were trying to get home from work after the storm hit the Fargo-Moorhead area about noon and quickly caused blinding travel conditions and icy roads.
Jahner said the traffic troubles continued until the late afternoon hours.
However, in the early evening he said it appeared as if most people were heeding the warnings to stay off roads.
He said two of the six vehicles that went off the roads in Cass County ended up in the floodwaters that have been filling ditches and causing overland flooding in rural areas. He said fortunately there were no injuries.
Jahner also said he it was fortunate they hadn't had any flood-related calls as the high winds were whipping the floodwaters against sandbags protecting homes in rural areas, especially in northern Cass County.
"The dikes seem to be holding," he said.
Meanwhile, WDAY Chief Meteorologist John Wheeler said he's expecting about 6 inches to 10 inches of snow in the Red River Valley near Fargo by the time the storm is over on Friday.
As of 7:30 p.m., he said there had been reports of anywhere from 4 inches to 6 inches of snow in Fargo.
He cautioned that it could be "snowing like crazy in one area and one mile away not at all." He said that was due to the way the storm was developing.
Wheeler expected the snow to continue, sometimes in spurts, until sometime Friday, with a few areas possibly getting a foot of snow.
The serious problems, however, were caused by strong winds gusting up to 45 mph in some locations. It forced authorities to issue no-travel warnings and the closure of Interstate 29 from the Canadian border all the way south to Sioux Falls in South Dakota and Interstate 94 from Jamestown to Alexandria in west-central Minnesota.
Wheeler said the winds won't let up until early Friday afternoon and that travel conditions will likely remain "terrible" until early Friday evening.
He also warned about attempting to travel in the region as the combination of wet snow making roads very slick, winds forming drifts and white-out conditions, along with the floodwaters in ditches, made for "dangerous" traveling conditions.
He said one sheriff said those conditions made it "the worst storm of the year" for traveling this year.
It was having its effect in the cities, too, as Fargo and West Fargo all shut down city offices and services for Friday, with schools also closing their doors. Metro bus service was also canceled Thursday night through Friday.
Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney declared a city emergency. He said snow plowing services would continue and public safety agencies would also be in full operation. However, Mahoney said garbage service pickup scheduled for Friday would be done on Monday and that other city offices, including the library and public health, would be closed Friday. West Fargo also said garbage pickup would be delayed from Friday to Monday, with recycling pickup moving from Friday to Saturday, April 13.
Cass County late Thursday night reported that office would be opening two hours late at 10 a.m. on Friday unless further communication was made. Moorhead has a policy of not closing offices due to weather so offices will be open and operating, said City Manager Chris Volkers.
Wheeler said the snow was coming down at about 32 degrees, a far cry from a winter storm. He said it will melt quickly starting this weekend when temperatures start to warm.
"It'll be gone in a few days," he said.