Fargo-Moorhead dodges heavy snow, but storm unleashes high winds

A billboard stands crumpled in the snow after collapsing from high winds near Interstate 29 and Interstate 94 on Thursday, March 14. David Samson / The Forum
A billboard stands crumpled in the snow after collapsing from high winds near Interstate 29 and Interstate 94 on Thursday, March 14. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — Fargo-Moorhead may have escaped the worst of a massive storm that hit eastern North Dakota starting Wednesday evening, but wind and drifting snow continued to wreak havoc in open areas of the Red River Valley and farther west into the night on Thursday.

Rain then snow fell on and off from Wednesday evening into Thursday afternoon in the metro area, but it was officially only 1.2 inches of snow in the cities, much less than forecasts that had predicted 6 to 12 inches.

“For the most part, Fargo stayed relatively warm and missed out on a lot of the snow,” National Weather Service meteorologist Carl Jones said.

Dry air got wrapped into the system, which can sometimes happen with a large system, WDAY meteorologist Jared Piepenburg said. That resulted in the metro area getting little snow.

“Yesterday, it was a tough forecast" because models showed Fargo-Moorhead on the edge of precipitation from the system, he said.

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The snow moved out of the metro area on Thursday afternoon, but it was the gusty winds that caused trouble.

Motorists had to contend with whiteout conditions driving along 12th Avenue North in West Fargo on Thursday, March 14. David Samson / The Forum
Motorists had to contend with whiteout conditions driving along 12th Avenue North in West Fargo on Thursday, March 14. David Samson / The Forum

Although the blizzard warning expired about 7 p.m., WDAY chief meteorologist John Wheeler said traveling would still be tough in open areas. As of about 6 p.m., there were still steady winds of about 41 mph, with gusts to 56 mph at Hector International Airport in Fargo.

Wheeler said the winds would slowly diminish but it would still be breezy on Friday at 15 to 25 mph. And he thought travel conditions would improve.

Interstate 29 from Fargo to the Canadian border and Interstate 94 from Fargo to Bismarck were closed until Friday morning, and no travel was advised in south-central and eastern North Dakota.

The line of major snow in the storm stayed west and north of eastern Cass County, with the heaviest amounts concentrated south and near Jamestown, N.D., and near Grand Forks.

Ashley in far southeast North Dakota near the South Dakota border reported 16 inches of snow, the most in the state. Nearby, the North Dakota cities of Ellendale, Edgeley and Fullerton saw a foot of snow.

Elsewhere in North Dakota, Jamestown had 10 inches of snow; Grand Forks received 6.1 inches; Larimore reported 10 inches; and Devils Lake saw 5 inches.

Fargo-Moorhead residents woke up Thursday morning to slushy roads, which made driving in town difficult. The storm delivered 0.57 inches of water content in the mixed precipitation in the metro area, according to Wheeler.

Roofs on a garage in Moorhead and a business building in Fargo collapsed under the weight of snow. The wind blew off part of a roof on a building in West Fargo. And a billboard collapsed along Interstate 29 near the 13th Avenue South exit. No injuries were reported.

The storm brought rain to parts of west-central Minnesota, with 1.2 inches in Battle Lake, 1.14 inches in New York Mills, 0.9 inches in Fergus Falls and 0.59 inches in Detroit Lakes, Wheeler said.

Friday's high was forecast for 29 degrees in the metro area, with a low of 9 degrees at night, according to the weather service.

The weekend is expected to bring more pleasant weather as wind speeds stay in the single digits. The weather service has forecast partly to mostly cloudy skies Saturday and Sunday in Fargo, with highs in the low 30s and overnight lows in the teens.

That will remain consistent into next week, but Wednesday likely will bring mostly sunny skies and possibly a high near 39 degrees, the weather service said.

National Weather Service Graphic
National Weather Service Graphic