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WDAY: The News Leader

Published February 11, 2013, 12:07 PM

Blizzard socks the eastern Dakotas with heavy snow

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Schools, public offices, medical centers and businesses throughout the eastern Dakotas opened late or not at all Monday as the region began digging out from a blizzard that broke several longstanding weather records.

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Schools, public offices, medical centers and businesses throughout the eastern Dakotas opened late or not at all Monday as the region began digging out from a blizzard that broke several longstanding weather records.

The storm that brought more than foot of snow and strong winds to some areas contributed to numerous accidents over the weekend, including a seven-vehicle chain-reaction crash on I-94 in southeastern North Dakota late Friday. The Highway Patrol reported only minor injuries.

Blizzard warnings posted by the National Weather Service continued into Monday morning in central and northeastern South Dakota and southeastern North Dakota. Winter weather advisories endured for other parts of the region.

Interstates that had been shut down began reopening Monday. Interstate 29 remained closed between the South Dakota border and Fargo, N.D., but reopened between the border and Sioux falls to the south, and between Fargo and Grand Forks to the north. I-94 in North Dakota reopened between Fargo and Jamestown, and I-90 in South Dakota reopened between Sioux Falls and Wall.

Shea Denault and his sister, Jenna, crashed into a road-closure gate on I-29 in Fargo on Saturday.

"It was pretty bad, pretty white-out," Shea Denault told WDAY-TV. "All of a sudden we see this gate. We're doing about 45 (mph). She freaked out. She was driving, and she slammed on the brakes."

Troopers and snowplow drivers rescued several stranded motorists. Officials in the southeastern North Dakota town of Fairmount opened an emergency shelter to accommodate nearly three dozen stranded motorists.

Fargo Public Works Director Ben Dow told The Forum newspaper that it was the worst snowstorm since a two-day blizzard that led to a major pileup on I-94 west of West Fargo on Dec. 30, 2010. Clearing roads will be a difficult task and they may not clear some until Monday night, he said.

The University of North Dakota hockey team, returning from a weekend series in Omaha, Neb., became stranded in Sisseton, S.D., when the interstates were shut down. Coach Dave Hakstol told the Grand Forks Herald that he hoped the team could return home sometime Monday.

The storm broke several weather records in the two states, according to the National Weather Service.

In South Dakota, Aberdeen had 8.4 inches of snow Sunday, breaking the city's record for the date of 3.4 inches set 65 years ago. Huron had 9 inches, breaking that city's 54-year-old record of 4.9 inches. In North Dakota, Fargo set a record with 9.3 inches of snow Sunday, breaking the city's 60-year-old record of 3.1 inches. Grand Forks had 4.8 inches, breaking its record for the date of 3.1 inches, set 18 years ago.

Heavy snow caused part of the roof to sag at a business in the North Dakota city of West Fargo. No one was inside Caterpillar Inc. shortly after midnight Sunday when the roof sagged over an area about 300 square feet. Workers on the early Monday shift were told to stay home. The sagging roof broke a sprinkler line but officials said the water damage was not significant.

Many schools canceled classes or scheduled them to begin late on Monday. Valley City State University in North Dakota and Presentation College in the South Dakota city of Aberdeen closed their campuses Monday. UND in Grand Forks canceled classes before 10 a.m. Monday, and North Dakota State University in Fargo called off classes for the entire day. Many streets in Fargo, the state's largest city, were impassable early Monday.

The South Dakota Legislature shifted its four-day work week from Monday through Thursday to Tuesday through Friday because of the storm. State government offices were open, but residents with business to conduct were urged to call ahead to make sure the office they planned to visit was staffed.

The storm did bring much-needed moisture to parts of South Dakota that have been mired in drought.

"Some of our automated equipment was getting as much as 1 inch of moisture in the snow," National Weather Service Meteorologist Jeff Chapman told The Daily Republic newspaper. "That is actually a pretty significant amount and should help the area."

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