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Published March 11, 2011, 08:15 PM

Official Says 'Hundreds' Stranded as Blizzard Strikes

A state official says “hundreds” of motorists are stranded in a North Dakota blizzard and the National Guard will be sent out once conditions improve.

By: Forum Communications Report,

A state official says “hundreds” of motorists are stranded in a North Dakota blizzard and the National Guard will be sent out once conditions improve.

Greg Wilz is North Dakota's director of Homeland Security. He says 911 centers have been taking calls all day from motorists who are in the ditch, had an accident or stopped driving because of poor visibility.

He says the Guard will begin sweeping major highways from west to east once visibility improves. Wilz said people should heed the “no travel” advisory.

Nearly all of the state is under a blizzard warning. Conditions are expected to improve Saturday.

Wilz says stranded motorists should call someone about their situation but should only make one call to 911.

Blizzard conditions were expected to develop this afternoon in the Devils Lake and Jamestown areas and spread over much of the Red River Valley late this afternoon and tonight, the National Weather Service said.

In North Dakota, Interstate 94 between Bismarck and Dickinson was closed at 2 p.m. At 3 p.m., the closure extended east to Jamestown.

Both eastbound and westbound travel on the stretch of I-94 is prohibited due to reduced visibility and a number of a traffic incidents on this roadway.

A blizzard warning is in effect from 3 p.m. today to 6 a.m. Saturday for Cass and Clay counties.

Blowing snow already was creating problems this morning, with a lot of ground drifting and scattered ice throughout southeast North Dakota, said Bruce Nord, maintenance superintendent for the state Department of Transportation’s southeast district.

“Pretty much all of our sections are reporting scattered ice, frost,” he said, adding, “We’ve got a lot of snow on the ground that’s loose that can blow around.”

Snow will spread into the Fargo-Moorhead area late this afternoon and continue tonight, with accumulations of up to 2 inches expected. Strong north to northwest winds of 25 to 40 mph will create whiteout conditions, especially in open country, according to the weather service office in Grand Forks.

Patches of freezing drizzle or light rain could fall before the snow.

New snow amounts are expected to be 3 to 5 inches in the Devils Lake basin, 2 to 4 inches over the northern valley and northwest Minnesota and 1 to 2 inches in the Fargo and Valley City areas.

Visibility was already poor in some open areas this morning, Nord said, and he anticipates travel alerts will be issued later today.

“And I’m not going to rule out interstate closures … especially going to the north,” he said, noting NDDOT crews were checking the closure gates to make sure they’re working properly.

Nord advised motorists to keep their cruise control turned off, check road reports and refrain from unnecessary travel.

“These types of storms, it’s nothing to fool with,” he said.

Also, the NDDOT reported difficult travel conditions in northwest and central North Dakota on Friday.

A no travel advisory was issued in the northwest because of poor visibility in blowing snow and scattered icy spots.

The advisory covered Crosby, Bowbells, Williston, Tioga, Stanley, Watford City and New Town.

A travel alert for central North Dakota was issued because of slush on the roads and reduced visibility. It included Mohall, Bottineau, Minot, Towner, Parshall, Garrison, Velva, Harvey, Center, Wilton and Underwood.

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