Weather creates hazardous driving conditions across southwest ND
Though it was easier said than done for some, motorists were advised to stay off the roads Monday as the entire southwestern North Dakota region was gripped by a winter storm.
A weather system that brought light rain to the Dickinson area Sunday evening turned to snow after 9 p.m., leaving roadways slick and covered with blowing snow Monday. With winds whipping through the region, visibility was especially poor north of Dickinson and near the North Dakota-Montana border.
The National Weather Service upgraded Dickinson and surrounding counties to a blizzard warning by early Monday afternoon.
"We felt that the general danger to the public was there," said John Martin of the NWS out of Bismarck. "Other areas of the state received more snow, but the high winds in some places have made visibility very poor in some areas."
Martin said wind gusts in some areas of the region were estimated to be 35 to 45 mph, making travel next to impossible.
The North Dakota Department of Transportation issued a "No Travel Advisory" for Interstate 94 from the Montana border to Richardton. The advisory extended to all roadways east of Richardton to the South Dakota and Montana borders.
A spokesperson for the Montana Highway Patrol said the trailer of a semi-truck overturned on I-94 near Wibaux, Mont., on Monday afternoon. No injuries were reported.
The one-vehicle accident and the worsening weather conditions caused the interstate to be closed from Glendive to the North Dakota border at about 3:30 p.m.
Lt. Norman Ruud of the North Dakota Highway Patrol said many stretches of road in southwestern North Dakota were icy and visibility was "down to 50 or 100 feet in the Medora area" as of Monday afternoon. Despite the poor conditions, Ruud reported that, as of 4 p.m., the NDHP had not received any reports of crashes or vehicles in the ditch.
"The No Travel Advisory is a means of us telling the motoring public out there that conditions are such that, if they don't have to be out of the roads, we advise they stay where they are," Ruud said. "Anywhere north of I-94, north of Belfield or north of Beach has a significant amount of ice. As temperatures get colder, we're likely to see some of those conditions deteriorate."
A number of schools in the region were let out early Monday, as were the Dickinson Public Schools rural buses. As Monday afternoon, the Dickinson Police Department reported just two accidents within city limits, both minor, said Officer Tom Grosz of the DPD.
"It helps when the storm comes overnight," Grosz said. "That way, people can plan ahead and make the necessary adjustments for their commute."
The NWS reported the hardest hit areas of the state, as far as the amount of snowfall, were northeast of Dickinson.
Some areas near Minot and the Turtle Mountains received up to 10 inches. Martin said he expected the storm to taper off as the night went along Monday.