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Storm dumps only 4 inches of snow on Grand Forks, but Starkweather, N.D., blasted with 16 inches

GRAND FORKS, N.D.--Late Monday morning, Jeremy Lawrence was shoveling out his snow-encrusted car from a curbside parking spot outside his mother's house near downtown Grand Forks.

City workers plowed through the night of Christmas Day and kept at their rounds throughout the day Monday. Mark Aubol, streets and facilities manager for the city of Grand Forks, said Blizzard Blitzen wasn't too tough to clean up. (Herald photo by Andrew Haffner)
City workers plowed through the night of Christmas Day and kept at their rounds throughout the day Monday. Mark Aubol, streets and facilities manager for the city of Grand Forks, said Blizzard Blitzen wasn't too tough to clean up. (Forum News Service photo by Andrew Haffner)

GRAND FORKS, N.D.-Late Monday morning, Jeremy Lawrence was shoveling out his snow-encrusted car from a curbside parking spot outside his mother's house near downtown Grand Forks.

He figured he'd been at it for about a half-hour and thought he was closing in on the end so he could hit the road to pick up his brother who was snowed in a few blocks away. He'd heard about the incoming weather-dubbed Blizzard Blitzen-late last week, but he "didn't think it'd be this bad."

"I would have parked in the driveway had I known," he said with a laugh.

The winter storm had been anticipated, but its impact widely varied across North Dakota. Meteorologists at the National Weather Service spotted the blizzard at a distance and issued early advisories last week - which developed into a blizzard warning effective 5 p.m. Sunday through a good part of Monday.

National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Barrett said the Grand Forks area saw as much as 4 inches of snow through early Monday afternoon. The city also was hit by an unusually extended period of sleet, Barrett said. Overall, the Grand Forks area received less snow than initially expected - a condition caused by a period of above-freezing temperatures.

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"I would say placement of various elements was different," Barrett said. Low-pressure areas in the storm tracked beyond city limits, he explained, drawing snowfall farther out. "Up in some of those places, like Starkweather and Devils Lake, what happened there was exactly in the cards."

Barrett said Northwood, N.D., located in southwest Grand Forks County, reported about 8 inches of snow. Farther north, Barrett said, Park River, N.D., came in with as much as 8 inches of snowfall; the Devils Lake area reported about 10 inches, and Cando, N.D., received more than a foot.

The highest reported amount of snowfall in the region came from Starkweather, N.D., Barrett said, which was hit with about 16 inches of snow north of Devils Lake.

Blizzard conditions in Grand Forks were delayed through Sunday night as potential snowfall was "replaced with some kind of ice, sleet and freezing rain," totaling as much as an inch in some areas, Barrett said.

"If you translated that into snow, now you're talking some of those totals that might have been out there," he added.

Barrett said wind speeds still clocked in Monday afternoon at about 30 mph with gusts up to 45 mph. Winds were expected to taper off through the evening.

Inclement weather left its mark on roadways across North Dakota.

Interstate 94 was closed to traffic Monday morning across the length of the state. The stretch from the Montana border to Dickinson, N.D., reopened in the early afternoon, though the North Dakota Department of Transportation warned motorists the roadway still was affected by compacted ice and snow and advised against travel.

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Karen Armstrong wasn't swayed by the state of the roads Monday morning in Grand Forks but, then again, she doesn't have a car. As she walked to work at Whitey's restaurant in East Grand Forks, Armstrong said Blizzard Blitzen wasn't as bad as Blizzard Alivia, which came to town Dec. 6.

"I can actually walk in this storm," she said after stepping over a small drift. "Last time, it was just a harder walk, I had to walk on the streets instead of the sidewalks."

Mark Aubol, streets and facilities manager for the city of Grand Forks, said Monday afternoon the street-clearing effort was going well.

"The storm wasn't as difficult as we first anticipated, but it's still kind of heavy snow," Aubol said.

He said city streets crews worked through Sunday night to open up the main and secondary roads of Grand Forks, a task they continued Monday. By afternoon Monday, workers were clearing snow from residential areas, where he advised homeowners to clear their sidewalks within 24 hours to avoid violating city ordinances and triggering clearing fees.

Aubol hoped to have everything plowed by early Monday evening, at which point he said crews would "see what the wind does" to determine if night crews needed to be scrambled. By his estimation, some of the city's side streets saw close to 6 inches of snowfall. Even with that much, Aubol said Blizzard Blitzen didn't prove to be all that tough.

"It's still a challenge, but traffic is nicer today than it was after that first initial storm where everybody was out driving around," he said. "I think with the holidays and some people knowing they couldn't leave town today, they settled through the storm."

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