FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A blizzard that swept through parts of the Dakotas on Thursday made travel treacherous and prompted the shutdown of roads, public schools and even universities.
The National Weather Service posted blizzard warnings in eastern North Dakota and eastern South Dakota, as well as in parts of Minnesota. The impacted area included the James River and Red River valleys.
The system that moved in from Canada brought only about an inch of snow, but winds gusting to 70 mph created whiteout conditions. No travel was advised in many areas, and North Dakota’s Transportation Department shut down Interstate 94 between Bismarck and Jamestown late Thursday morning.
“In a lot of areas it’s a lot more of a ground blizzard than a true blizzard,” weather service meteorologist Pete Speicher said. “You might take off somewhere not expecting to encounter anything … and all of sudden you’re in whiteout conditions.”
A wind gust of 72 mph was reported at Forbes on the North Dakota-South Dakota border. Sustained winds of 74 mph are considered hurricane force.
“I have never been through a hurricane before but I’ve been through a tornado that took the chimneys out and blew out the windows,” said Harvey Anliker, owner of the Flying H Bar and Grill in Forbes. “I really don’t know what kind of damage there is around here but when the building starts shaking, you know something is going on.”
Anliker’s bar was open for business Thursday but the 75-year-old lifelong North Dakotan wasn’t expecting many customers.
“Maybe a few townspeople,” he said. “But it’s a whiteout out there right now. You can’t see a thing.”
Public schools throughout the region shut down for the day. North Dakota’s two largest universities — the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks and North Dakota State University in Fargo — also closed.
The weather also presented a challenge for officials in the eastern South Dakota city of Madison working to fix a water shortage in the community of 6,500 people caused by the collapse of a roof over a city water tank.
“It’s snowing and it’s blowing,” Mayor Roy Lindsay said. “It’s not a heavy snow, so we’re able to work in it, but it is cold, and it is windy.”
Even colder weather was forecast to follow the blizzard, with wind chills in the region early Friday dropping to as low as 30 degrees below zero. But a warm-up is in store for the weekend, with high temperatures in the 20s and 30s.
“Clear skies, a lot of sunlight will help warm things up, and the winds will die down,” Speicher said.
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