Late-winter storm affecting travel in Dakotas

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A late-winter storm shut down schools and caused travel problems Monday throughout much of North Dakota and eastern South Dakota.

Motorists in many areas were advised not to travel or to use extreme caution because of blowing snow. The wind was forecast to gust up to 60 mph in northeastern South Dakota.

"It doesn't take a whole lot of snow with these strong winds to cause problems," National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Vipond told the American News in Aberdeen, S.D. Ice also was a problem on roads in the region, according to KELO-TV.

Parts of eastern North Dakota were expecting more than half a foot of snow. The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for much of eastern North Dakota and for northeastern and east central South Dakota.

Many schools started late or called off classes for the day. Personnel at Minot Air Force Base in north central North Dakota who were not considered "essential" were allowed to come to work late.

People had to be rescued from more than two dozen stranded vehicles on Interstate 29 between Fargo and Wahpeton in southeastern North Dakota late Sunday and early Monday, Highway Patrol Capt. Bryan Niewind told The Forum newspaper.

The storm occurred a few days ahead of the next NWS outlook for spring flooding, due out Thursday. Hydrologist Mike Lukes told The Associated Press that the additional moisture could increase the risk for flooding in the Red River Valley of eastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.

"We're sitting somewhere between 3, 4, 5, 6 inches of water in the snow already," he said. "Additional (moisture) will add to it, but as far as (the flood risk) going up significantly higher, that probably isn't in the cards."

Lukes estimated the new snow in the southern Red River Valley contained about half an inch of water, and the snow in the northern valley about 3- to 4-tenths of an inch.

This system continues a pattern of winter weather in the area, as Fargo saw several inches of snow Friday. It also was preceded by record cold. The temperature at Grand Forks dropped to minus 18 degrees on Saturday and minus 23 degrees on Sunday — both city records for those dates.