Blizzard hits Dakotas
BISMARCK (AP) -- Severe winds and heavy snowfall blanketed central and eastern North Dakota and South Dakota on Thursday, shutting down buildings, roads and highways just before New Year's. A crash involving at least a dozen vehicles shut down a major freeway for hours.
The state Department of Transportation closed Interstate 94 in both directions between Jamestown and Fargo after the accident. Interstate 29 was closed from Brookings, S.D. to Grand Forks.
With another blizzard expected Friday, groups and offices scrambled to close early and cancel or postpone events scheduled for the final days of the year.
State and county officials in both states implored drivers to stay off the roads, which were covered by ice and obscured by gusts of snow blowing up to 45 mph. Temperatures hovered around zero with the wind chill measured at 20 below zero or colder. The National Weather Service's Grand Forks office predicted 5 inches to 9 inches of snow throughout the area Thursday, with more on the way Friday.
Near Fargo at least a dozen vehicles were involved in a crash that closed down Interstate 94 Thursday afternoon. At least two people were transported from the site by ambulance, the newspaper reported, but information about their injuries wasn't immediately available.
North Dakota Highway Patrol Sgt. Dave Wolf said the accident scene was about a quarter-mile long, but wasn't completely sure. "We're blocked," Wolf said. "We can't get through because of a semi that's blocking the entire road.
"Until we can get him moved out of the way, we don't even know what's beyond that," he said.
Fargo police had responded to at least 15 crashes since Thursday morning. The state department of transportation ordered its snowplows off the road due to the conditions, and the city's airport canceled almost all flights Thursday night.
In South Dakota, state officials urged people to avoid unnecessary travel and said more roads could be closed if the storm worsens.
"Travel conditions will be treacherous at best and could be impossible for Friday and part of Saturday," said Tom Dravland, the secretary of the department of public safety, in a statement. "We know people have New Year's Eve and New Year's Day plans, but this is a dangerous storm."