Accidents near Dickinson, warnings accompany winter storm
The first major snow system to move across western North Dakota caused several accidents, forced reduced speeds for travelers and delayed traffic, officials said Wednesday evening.
Dickinson Highway Patrol Trooper Chris Messer reported several accidents near Dickinson, including rollovers on Highway 22 north and south of town and an accident on Interstate 94 east of town. Messer said icy conditions and low visibility were likely causes of the accidents. He did not say whether there were injuries.
"People might not think it's that bad, but if they tap the breaks, they will find out that their anti-locks will kick in pretty quick," Messer said. "You don't have a lot of control at that point."
The snow storm prompted the North Dakota Department of Transportation to issue a no travel advisory for several highways in the northwestern part of the state, including Highway 85 from Grassy Butte to Watford City. The DOT also asked motorists to reduce speeds on I-94 from Belfield to Medina and Highway 22 from the north Hettinger County line to Junction 73 north of Killdeer.
The storm system reached Dickinson shortly after 10 a.m., said Rich Kinney, a National Weather Service meteorologist in Bismarck. It then intensified in the afternoon.
The NWS issued a winter weather advisory Tuesday, forecasting winds to average 15 mph with gusts up to 30 mph. Kinney said Dickinson would accumulate between 1 and 3 inches of snow.
Though snowfall was light, Kinney said other factors contributed to icy conditions.
"With some of the moisture on the road ... snow is blowing across the roadways and freezing," Kinney said. "We are getting a lot of roads that are turning quite icy. We are seeing a lot of areas with hazardous conditions."
Kinney added that some people may have not been prepared for the storm. The first snow typically hits western North Dakota in October.
"This has been an unusually quiet season so far," he said. "People usually have to get adjusted to driving in these conditions."
Conditions were also slick in town, said Benjamin Schumann, Dickinson Police Department senior patrol officer. He reported five accidents within an hour and a half.
"With the high number of traffic we have, the roads are going to get extremely slick a lot faster," Schumann said. "It will get worse."
Increased oil production in western North Dakota has brought more traffic to the city, Mayor Dennis Johnson said. He said he wouldn't be surprised if there were more accidents.
"If you have people who have come here from the southern part of the country, they might not be accustomed to driving on icy streets," Johnson said. "They may not realize that you have to slow down when you come to a stop sign or intersection."
Messer said motorists should not be on the road during hazardous conditions unless they absolutely have to go out. Drivers who do have to travel should use extreme caution.
"Speeds (should be) greatly reduced -- 20s, teens, 10s," he said.