Blizzard conditions expected by noon in the Red River Valley

Both east and west bound lanes of Interstate 94 are seen from a pedestrian bridge the morning of Thursday, Dec. 27, 2018. While residents and road crews continue to clear new snow, strong wind gusts and more snow are expected for the remainder of Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. Ann Arbor Miller / The Forum

Update: As of 8:30 a.m., the North Dakota Department of Transportation lifted the travel alert for parts of northwest North Dakota, but it remains in effect for areas around Bismarck, Valley City, Fargo, Devils Lake and Grand Forks, according to a release.

The Red River Valley is in a blizzard warning along with the eastern half of North Dakota and portions of western Minnesota.

National Weather Service Meteorologist Pete Speicher said wind is expected to pick up around noon, with gusts reaching around 50 mph through the afternoon and night.

Blizzards occur when gusts of 35 mph or more mix with snow.

In Fargo, Blue Cross Blue Shield and Noridian Healthcare Solutions are closed Thursday. Area colleges and universities have also closed, with only essential personnel reporting. Fargo Public Schools did not have classes scheduled for Thursday, but activities and practices were cancelled. Fargo Meals on Wheels and Metro Senior Ride will also not operate Thursday. West Acres Shopping Center will open at 10 a.m., but is operating in "storm mode" so individual stores can decide whether to open Thursday. West Fargo City Hall announced it would remain closed Thursday due to weather conditions.


In Grand Forks, city and county offices, the courthouse, Altru clinical operations, UND Main Campus and the social security office were closed Thursday morning due to weather conditions. The East Grand Forks city offices, senior center, parks and rec activities and arenas, Northland Community and Technical College and city library are also closed.

A statewide travel alert was issued by the North Dakota Department of Transportation because of reduced visibility and snow fog creating whiteout conditions. The Minnesota Department of Transportation has marked all northwestern roads as either partially or completely covered with snow. Speicher said once wind gusts reach full force driving will become incredibly difficult. He said the decision will be up to the DOT, but road closures could be possible as the storm picks up.

“Be careful out there and don’t take any risks driving anyplace if you don’t need to,” he said.

Heavy winds are expected to stop by sunrise Friday.

Speicher said snow totals are still coming in, but at the Grand Forks office there was 5 inches of accumulation. Around the Red River Valley, Speicher said there was about 4-8 inches of snow that gathered overnight. Areas down south, closer to Fargo saw worse conditions than Grand Forks and can expect to see more snow again today.

“It’s important to note this is a first round,” he said. “We’re kind of in a lull in activity right now but we have a second round that’s going to come through later in the morning and into the afternoon hours and that’s going to be accompanied with some very, very strong winds.”

A snow band is forming in southeastern North Dakota and into western Minnesota and is expected to continue southeastward. Grand Forks is expected to see another 2-3 inches, while Fosston, Minn. could get 8-12 more inches.


Speicher said Fargo will be one of the places hit hardest by the snowfall, and is expected to have between 12-18 inches by Friday morning.

Speicher said areas north of Grand Forks may not see much additional snow, but will still have ground blizzards caused by the heavy winds pushing around last night’s snowfall.

“There will be some areas in the northeast where it looks clear when you walk outside -- nothing falling, but when you go out into the country where the winds are really howling, it’s going to be bad really quick,” he said.

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