Region cleans up after blizzard
Little to no visibility, no power and no place to sleep left a number of people with stories to tell after a blizzard whipped through much of western North Dakota and eastern Montana Saturday. Clean-up continued Monday.
Power was restored to southwestern North Dakota; however, reminders of the storm can be seen, including downed trees and what's left of the Mott Post Office roof. Ranchers are also busy tracking their herds.
At its peak, 16,000 Montana-Dakota Utilities customers throughout western North Dakota and eastern Montana were without power, spokesman Mark Hanson said.
As of Monday afternoon there were fewer than 10,000 without and he said the company estimated six towns, including Williston, would have power restored by Monday evening.
Power was out in many areas, including Rhame and Sentinel Butte and there were also transmission issues in Bowman and Beach Saturday into Sunday morning, Hanson said.
"Once power is restored there will still be a lot of work to do," he said, adding crews will be patrolling lines and making sure there are no other issues. In some cases the utility makes temporary repairs and goes back later.
Slope County Sheriff Pat Lorge said Amidon residents were without power for eight or nine hours Saturday.
The Mott Post Office was also without power and the roof blew off early Saturday morning making it business as not-so usual.
A peaked roof was put on the building two to three years ago to cover an older flat roof, part-time clerk Sharon Larson said.
What's left of it is in pieces in neighboring yards and on a neighboring store's deck, but the old roof remains. A few bricks also came off the building when the tin roof blew off.
The office remained open, with employees working in the dark and without phone service Saturday, Larson said, adding by Monday afternoon, services, computers and phones were once again functional.
Wind gusts near 70 mph, along with snow, made for difficult travel over the weekend and the North Dakota Highway Patrol reported one fatality north of New England.
Bruce W. Jacobs, 49, of New England was killed when his vehicle and 19-year-old Tanner Senn's vehicle collided in white-out conditions on slush-covered Highway 22, according to the NDHP. Senn is from Bison, S.D.
No travel was advised Saturday and the North Dakota Department of Transportation closed Interstate 94 between Dickinson and the Montana border. Semis remained parked at the closed gate at the most western Dickinson exit ramp and many travelers found open businesses to stop at and get out of the storm.
Travelers passing through were basically stuck after officials closed Interstate 94, Stark County Emergency Manager Bill Fahlsing said, adding that within an hour of opening an emergency shelter about 35 people arrived. In the end, about 50 people stayed at the Dickinson Armory shelter, he said.
The stranded received cots, blankets, pillows and food. Though there was little activity, they found ways to keep themselves entertained with laptops, books, movies and playing cards, Fahlsing said.
Tiger Discount Truck Stop in east Dickinson was also a busy place.
The parking lot was full of semis and some had to be moved across the street because there was no room for them all, said clerk Britani Annable, who lives about 2 miles south of town.
She said people were scattered throughout the store talking about their driving experiences, including her own.
"I was scared the whole way here," she said, adding there were times she couldn't see anything but white.
"I stopped in the middle of the street to see if I was on the road or in the ditch or where I was," Annable said.
Visibility in the area was about zero and the roads had 2 inches of ice and snow, Lorge said. Stranded motorists in Slope County were taken to Bowman and the storm let up early evening "so you could see again."
The storm also impacted livestock producers, North Dakota Stockmen's Association Executive Vice President Julie Schaff Ellingson said from her Bismarck office. She said the strongest impact was in the northwest but across the area, ranchers are focused on getting mothers paired up with their calves.
"Producers are on high alert making sure they're cared for and healthy and can overcome events like we had this weekend," she said. She did not have estimates on how many animals perished.
Mike Hermanson from Affordable Tree Service, Gladstone, was cleaning up what was left of a few trees that were yanked out of the ground from the roots during the storm in Dickinson Monday afternoon. He said he had numerous calls from the Hettinger and Bowman areas regarding downed trees.
A number of area activities were canceled or postponed due to the storm, including Dickinson and Trinity high schools' proms, which were rescheduled for Sunday.
The Belfield High School prom was also rescheduled. It will be Saturday at the school with the grand march at 8 p.m., which the public is invited to. Pictures are from 3 to 7 p.m. and the dance is from 8 p.m. to midnight. An after-prom party is from midnight until 4 a.m. at St. Bernard's.