Early spring blizzard pummels the Upper Midwest

Published on NewsOK Modified: March 31, 2014 at 4:25 pm •  Published: March 31, 2014
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BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A spring snowstorm in the Upper Midwest shut down schools and government offices, cancelled flights and closed main roads and interstates Monday, while making life miserable for cattle ranchers in the midst of calving season.

The National Weather Service issued blizzard warnings for much of the Dakotas and part of Minnesota, with the storm expected to linger through Monday night in some areas. Eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota could see the most snow, up to 20 inches.

Winds gusting in excess of 40 mph blew the snow around and reduced visibility for motorists.

"People should make plans to stay put or extend their stay on Monday until conditions improve," South Dakota Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist said in a statement.

South Dakota's department of transportation closed I-90 between Exit 67 at Ellsworth Air Force Base and Exit 110 at Wall on Monday afternoon. Officials said white-out conditions with zero to near-zero visibility, icy roads, drifting snow, as well as multiple accidents were making safe travel almost impossible in some areas.

Many schools started late or canceled classes, as did numerous colleges and universities, including the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University.

Grand Forks Air Force Base in northeastern North Dakota required only essential personnel to report for duty Monday. North Dakota officials closed all lanes of I-29 from Grand Forks to the Canadian border around 3 p.m. All lanes of I-94 from Bismarck to Fargo were also closed.

Cancellations on flights in and out of the Fargo airport were "piling up" Monday, said Shawn Dobberstein, Fargo Municipal Airport Authority executive director. The airport serves five airlines.

"Whether or not there is more snow coming, visibility is what's going to get us," Dobberstein said. "A lot of people are asking about the early morning flights. Typically they're dependent on the aircraft getting into Fargo tonight, so we will see."

Numerous public and private agencies and groups throughout the region called off events. And South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard late Monday afternoon revised his original order to close state offices in nine western counties and added seven in the central part of the state.

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