Thursday, August 28, 2014
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Winter storm moves into Minnesota

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Icy conditions are reported all across northwestern Minnesota Monday. The Minnesota State Patrol district in Detroit Lakes advised no travel in the area due to the icy conditions. (MPR Photo/Dan Gunderson)
A winter storm glazed roads, stranded travelers, knocked out power and closed schools in western Minnesota and the Dakotas on Monday. More heavy weather was forecast Tuesday.

Moorhead, Minn. — Residents in northwest Minnesota awoke Monday to streets glazed with ice. Sleet rattled off windows like BBs. Icicles hung off stop signs like candy canes. A shower that moved through the area Sunday quickly became an ice storm

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for southeastern North Dakota, including the cities of Fargo, Wahpeton and Valley City.

Vince Godon, a meterologist for the National Weather Service in Grand Forks, says the storm begin with showers that quickly turned to ice. Now, the rain has turned to snow.

"Right now it looks like anywhere from 8-12 inches. The winds will probably be anywhere from 25-45 mph, with some gusts in the low 50s," says Godon.

Godon says the worst of the storm is expected to move through the region later Monday night.

The wind and snow will make it difficult for repair crews to fix downed power lines. Bonnie Lund, a spokeswoman for Xcel Energy, says the storm is taking a toll on power lines and poles.

"We do have crews coming in from Grand Forks, from Glenwood, Minnesota, and possibly from Minot. So we're hoping the weather won't hamper their travel and they can get here and help out, because we're seeing more calls from customers without service," says Lund.

Lund says more than 1,000 Xcel customers in the Fargo-Moorhead area are without power. Other utilities report thousands more people in rural communities are also without power. That's because ice and strong winds knocked down hundreds of power poles.

Lund says it could be days before the power comes back on, because the weather will make it harder for crews to get to downed lines.

"We are very concerned that we can get to the sites that need repair, and that the weather doesn't shut us down from doing that," Lund says.

The storm prompted most schools across the region to cancel classes or close early Monday. The city of Fargo closed its offices early. All employees, except those classified as emergency workers, were sent home.

Roads across the region are extremely slick. Capt. Bruce Hentges of the Minnesota State Patrol says people should stay home.

"Even if you have four-wheel drive, you can't beat the laws of physics. You might be able to get going, but you're not going to be able to stop or steer it or control it," says Hentges.

Hentges says sections of Interstate 94 between Alexandria and Moorhead are a mess. He says no one has died in traffic accidents, but there are cars in the median and some semis have jack-knifed on the highway.

Hentges says there is no reason for anyone to be traveling.

"It's not worth the chance, and you're just going to get in our way," says Hentges. "You're going to get in the way of the DOT that's trying to make it easier to keep it open all night long."

The storm is affecting a large part of the region. In South Dakota, two major streches of Interstate are closed to traffic. Portions of South Dakota are getting socked by 45-mph winds and blinding snow.

Doug Feltman, chief of public safety in Mitchell, South Dakota, says emergency shelters are available for people stranded by the storm.

"We have two shelters open now, we are able to open more if needed," says Feltman. "We'll make sure they get some place warm and something to eat."

With storms come injuries. People forget how to drive on slick roads. Dr. Dave Griffin, in the emergency room at Meritcare Hospital in Fargo, says the number of trauma patients typically increases during a storm.

"Car accidents, chest injuries, neck pain, and we see a lot of people who slip and fall who break their ankles or hurt their elbows or wrists," says Griffin.

Griffin says people should take their time and move slowly when dealing with a winter storm.

Forecasters say before this storm is over, up to a foot of snow could blanket the region.

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