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BLIZZARD STALLS RED RIVER VALLEY

Tuesday's blizzard-like storm in the Red River Valley clogged streets, slowed traffic to a crawl, and shut down schools, businesses and government offices. Even some snowplows were forced from the road.

Stuck in a snowdrift
Trevor Hopkins, a student at Minnesota State University Moorhead, works to free a car stuck Tuesday in a south Moorhead snowdrift. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

Tuesday's blizzard-like storm in the Red River Valley clogged streets, slowed traffic to a crawl, and shut down schools, businesses and government offices. Even some snowplows were forced from the road.

The real testament to the storm's force, however, was announced after 1 p.m., when the United States Postal Service pulled all remaining mail carriers off their routes.

Postal carriers, like everyone else, were better off staying inside as police and sheriff's departments issued no-travel advisories for the daylong storm.

The snow was supposed to end late Tuesday night with winds dying down early this morning, but a blizzard watch was extended until 5 a.m. today. Winds will pick up again today to create bitterly cold wind chills.

Digging out

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"In essence, the weather did shut us down in certain parts of town," said USPS spokesman Pete Nowacki from Minneapolis.

Nowacki said those places that weren't reached Tuesday will get their mail today - if mail trucks can get down those streets.

Street-cleaning crews in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo scaled back the number of plows out Tuesday to maintain lanes only on major thoroughfares.

City operations managers in Fargo and Moorhead cited forecasts predicting winds dying down sometime this morning, at which time as many units as possible will get to work clearing the streets.

Crews would start on primary and emergency routes before moving on to secondary avenues.

Al Weigel, Fargo's public works operational manager, said he'd have 35 to 40 people on the streets as soon as the winds died down. Even at full force, some parts of the city may not see clear paths until later in the day.

Chad Martin, director of operations in Moorhead, saw a similar timetable. He said that garbage collection routes, which had been halted Tuesday, will be repeated today.

School's out

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Area schools that closed on Tuesday will get a late start to school today.

Moorhead public and nonpublic schools will start two hours late today. All kindergarten, early intervention classes and community education classes are canceled.

Fargo schools, including Catholic Schools Network, Oak Grove and Grace Lutheran, West Fargo and Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton will all start two hours late.

Snowing, blowing

The snow that started falling Monday kept coming on Tuesday. As of 9 p.m. the National Weather Service estimated 7 inches fell Tuesday, for a total of more than 10 inches for the storm.

Vince Godon, meteorologist of the National Weather Service, said the storm was "fairly similar" to the Dec. 14 storm that dropped 10 inches of snow with 40-mph winds.

The real problem was the wind, which whipped up to 43 mph, causing snow to drift into lanes.

It all led to the area coming to a standstill.

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Minnesota officials closed Interstate 94 from Moorhead to Fergus Falls and Highway 10 from Moorhead to Lake Park at 11 a.m. as drifts reached 4 feet high. Interstate 94 was closed between Fargo and Jamestown, N.D.

Fargo closed 19th Avenue North between 18th Street and Dakota Drive shortly after 10 a.m.

Flights into Hector International airport were canceled.

Lt. Joel Vettel of the Fargo Police Department said two semis got stuck under the Main Avenue overpass on 10th Street.

By 7 p.m. Tuesday, Vettel counted 22 accidents reported with only one minor injury.

Of more concern were unsubstantiated reports of vehicles driving around a barricade on 19th Avenue North.

Vettel's other concern was for the cars stalled and abandoned on city streets, which posed a traffic hazard.

"We would appreciate it if your car is stuck, you call and tell us where it's at, because (today) when the plows come, they will be towed," said Clay County Sherriff Bill Bergquist.

Back in business

Businesses that were forced to close Tuesday look to be opening today.

Innovis Health and MeritCare locations all closed by noon Tuesday.

MeritCare later announced that most elective surgeries and procedures scheduled for today had been canceled and all F-M area locations would open at noon today, and regional MeritCare clinics outside the metro area would open at 10 a.m.

Cold weather to stick around

Tuesday's snowfall may be a thing of the past, but the cold weather will hold on until giving way to warmer weather.

Winds will continue gusting up to 23 mph today with an expected high of about 1 degree and wind chills as low as 36 below zero.

Bitter wind chills will continue Thursday, though the temperature should creep up to the high teens.

Starting Friday the winds will die down and the temperatures will continue to climb from an expected high of 29, followed by temps in the high 30s Saturday and Sunday.

Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki contributed to this report

Readers can reach Forum reporter John Lamb at (701) 241-5533

Related Topics: WEATHER
For 20 years John Lamb has covered art, entertainment and lifestyle stories in the area for The Forum.
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