BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Bad weather began moving through the Dakotas on Tuesday as motorists began hitting the roads for Thanksgiving, though the impact on holiday travel remained to be seen.
As much as 5 inches of snow was expected in parts of the two states from an Alberta clipper system sweeping southeast out of Canada, according to the National Weather Service.
“We’ve been keeping an eye on it for a couple of days,” Adam Jones, a weather service meteorologist in Bismarck, said at dawn Tuesday. “Over the last 24 hours is when we really had increased confidence that there would be widespread accumulations.”
A winter weather advisory was issued for most of North Dakota into Tuesday night, and for northeastern South Dakota into Wednesday morning. Travelers were cautioned to prepare for blowing snow and slick roads.
North Dakota’s Transportation Department issued a travel alert midday Tuesday for the central part of the state, telling motorists they could still travel but should beware of poor and rapidly changing conditions.
Traffic was lighter than usual in Williston, and the vehicles that were out skidded at intersections and fishtailed while turning. In Minot, patrons at the Schatz Crossroads truck stop were beginning to report icy conditions late Tuesday morning, cashier Amanda Wahlert said.
“It’s not beautiful,” she said of the traveling conditions.
Half a foot of snow was expected in the northern Black Hills of western South Dakota, an amount that shouldn’t deter travelers, said Matt Bunkers, a weather service meteorologist in Rapid City — which saw a record 2.5 inches of snow Monday.
“It will make things a little slick there, but they’re used to that, especially up in the higher hills,” he said. “People just have to slow down and use common sense.”
Conditions could be worse in northeastern South Dakota and in much of North Dakota on Tuesday, with gusty winds blowing and drifting snow and likely creating visibility problems.
The good news: Gasoline is cheaper than it was a year ago at this time. The average retail gas price in North Dakota is about $2.95 a gallon, more than 22 cents lower than last year; in South Dakota it’s about $2.83 a gallon, more than 31 cents lower, according to GasBuddy.com
AAA cites falling global oil prices as the primary reason for the drop at the pump, and it’s expected to continue through the Thanksgiving holiday. The travel association expects more than 46 million Americans to travel at least 50 miles during the Thanksgiving weekend, the highest volume since 2007.
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