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Published January 11, 2013, 02:17 PM

Dozens of schools cancel classes as snowstorm bears down on region

FARGO – Dozens of schools in eastern North Dakota and northwest and west-central Minnesota are canceling classes or have buses running late this morning as the first snowstorm of 2013 bears down on the region.

By: Mike Nowatzki, INFORUM, Forum Staff Reports, inforum.com

FARGO – Dozens of schools in eastern North Dakota and northwest and west-central Minnesota are canceling classes or have buses running late this morning as the first snowstorm of 2013 bears down on the region.

A light rain was falling in Fargo-Moorhead, creating slick conditions on side streets, but main thoroughfares were still mostly clear as the temperature hovered at 35 degrees just before 8 a.m.

“I think once these temperatures do drop, it’s going to be like flipping a switch and things are going to change very quickly out here,” said Minnesota State Patrol Sgt. Jesse Grabow said.

The temperature in Grand Forks had already dropped to 21 degrees.

A freezing rain advisory is in effect until noon for parts of west-central Minnesota, including Becker and Otter Tail counties. Schools in Detroit Lakes and Fergus Falls were among those that canceled classes for the day. Fifty-two school announcements had been posted at www.inforum.com just before 8 a.m.

Grabow said icy conditions hadn’t developed yet on Interstate 94 near Barnesville, Minn., but six vehicles had already slid off Highway 108 near Dent, Minn., including a Minnesota Department of Transportation snowplow. He advised motorists to slow down, keep their headlights on and not use cruise control.

The Minnesota Department of Transportation advises no travel on Highway 113 between Waubun and Highway 71 and on Highway 108 between Pelican Rapids and Highway 78 due to icy road conditions.

In North Dakota, a blizzard warning is in effect for the Grand Forks and Devils Lake areas from 6 p.m. today until noon Saturday. The National Weather Service said freezing rain had ended across the central Red River Valley, but patchy light freezing drizzle was possible through this morning before temperatures drop below freezing and precipitation chances to snow this afternoon.

Snow accumulations from 5 to 9 inches are expected along and north of a line from Cooperstown, N.D., to Crookston, Minn., while 3 to 6 inches are possible from Lisbon, N.D., to Fargo to Bemidji, Minn.

North winds will increase from 30 to 35 mph with gusts up to 45 mph this evening and overnight, resulting in widespread blizzard conditions, the weather service said. Visibility will be reduced to a quarter-mile or less in blowing and drifting snow, making travel near impossible.

Bruce Nord, maintenance superintendent for the North Dakota Department of Transportation's southeast district, said the worst road conditions as of 8:15 a.m. were being reported in the Mayville and Hillsboro areas. Crews planned to start spreading salt on I-29 from Grandin to Fargo and in the Casselton area at 8:30 a.m., and on I-94 west of Fargo at 9:30 a.m., he said.

After an unusually warm week, the weekend will bring sub-zero temperatures.

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