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Forecasters say today should be better

The bad news: Freezing rain, sleet and blinding, blowing snow ravaged the Red River Valley on Monday. The good news: Today should be a little better. The storm - which downed power lines, and forced highways to close and schools, businesses and c...

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The bad news: Freezing rain, sleet and blinding, blowing snow ravaged the Red River Valley on Monday.

The good news: Today should be a little better.

The storm - which downed power lines, and forced highways to close and schools, businesses and city services to shut down - should wind down today, WDAY meteorologist John Wheeler said. "It's an interesting storm because we got so much of it in the form of two different kinds of ice," he said.

Freezing rain fell for an unusually long time - Sunday night through Monday morning - before turning to sleet, Wheeler said.

In the afternoon, it turned to snow with blizzard conditions, which are defined as having wind speeds of 35 mph or more, and considerable falling and or blowing snow with visibility near zero.

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The National Weather Service in Grand Forks, N.D., didn't have accurate wind data for Fargo because its gauges were frozen, but meteorologist Dave Kellenbenz said gusts reached 50 mph across the region.

The storm was expected to drop 1 to 3 inches of snow, and the winds should die down early today, Wheeler said.

The National Weather Service forecast calls for scattered flurries before noon and blustery winds that should calm tonight.

Fargo Public Works Director Dennis Walaker described Monday's ice buildup as the worst he has seen in his 31 years on the job.

Half an inch of clear ice covered streets, trees, power lines and cars - including Walaker's SUV.

"I had to crawl in through the back window and kick the doors open from the inside," he said.

As conditions worsened, authorities shut down Interstate 94 between Jamestown, N.D., and Fergus Falls, Minn., Interstate 29 from Fargo to the South Dakota border and U.S. Highway 10 from Moorhead to Detroit Lakes, Minn.

Fargo-Moorhead road crews worked throughout the day to keep the roads drivable.

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Fargo added magnesium chloride to its sand-salt mixture this year, and it appeared to be doing the job on notoriously slick spots like the 12th Avenue North viaduct, Walaker said.

"It's not as corrosive," he said of the mixture. "At these temperatures, it works really well down to about 14 degrees, maybe a little lower."

Law enforcement agencies on both sides of the Red River said people apparently heeded warnings to stay home.

In Fargo, where 19 accidents were reported on Sunday, there were only four between 8 a.m. and midafternoon Monday, Police Lt. Paul Laney said.

Moorhead Police Lt. Robert Larson said there were no accidents between midnight and noon on Monday.

It helped that classes at most area schools, including the three universities, were canceled on Monday and that businesses and city services shut down as the weather deteriorated.

West Acres mall in Fargo closed at 4 p.m. and the Moorhead Center Mall was closed for the day.

Fargo shut down its city offices, the Fargo Cass Public Health offices and clinic, the landfill and both branches of the library at 2:30 p.m.

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Metro Area Transit stopped bus service, including paratransit, at 3:15 p.m.

North Dakota State University and Minnesota State University Moorhead shut down completely for the first time in recent years. Concordia canceled its night classes.

Schools in Cass and Clay counties closed, including Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. School officials decided early Monday morning to cancel classes after they traveled roads and consulted with power companies and the National Weather Service.

Sunday's ice storm added another concern. "The conditions are absolutely perfect for a disastrous power outage," said West Fargo Superintendent Chuck Cheney. "We didn't want to have a lot of kids at school without power."

When Fargo schools were canceled Monday, siblings Casey and Kayla Adam of south Fargo slept late and then spent the day outside riding four-wheelers with neighbors.

"It was pretty icy and cold, but it was a lot of fun," said Casey, 14. He wasn't dismayed by the snow that started falling later in the day.

"I'm hoping for snow," he said. "I want to go snowmobiling."

Forum reporters Mike Nowatzki, Tom Pantera, Amy Dalrymple, Dave Roepke, Dave Forster, Jonathan Knutson, Erin Hemme Froslie and Managing Editor Matthew Von Pinnon contributed to this report. Readers can reach Forum reporter Andrea Domaskin at (701) 241-5556

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