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Massive snowdrifts, stuck vehicles: Blizzard forced extended closure of interstates in North Dakota

Crews worked Friday, March 15, to clear Interstate 94 of heavy snowdrifts, especially between the Jamestown and Buffalo interchanges in North Dakota. Several stuck vehicles had to be removed. Special to The Forum1 / 4
Crews worked Friday, March 15, to clear Interstate 94 of heavy snowdrifts, especially between the Jamestown and Buffalo interchanges in North Dakota. Several stuck vehicles had to be removed. Special to The Forum2 / 4
Crews worked Friday, March 15, to clear Interstate 94 of heavy snowdrifts, especially between the Jamestown and Buffalo interchanges in North Dakota. Several stuck vehicles had to be removed. Special to The Forum3 / 4
Crews worked Friday, March 15, to clear Interstate 94 of heavy snowdrifts, especially between the Jamestown and Buffalo interchanges in North Dakota. Several stuck vehicles had to be removed. Special to The Forum4 / 4

FARGO — A midweek blizzard buried parts of Interstate 94 in eastern North Dakota, forcing transportation officials to close the highway for one of the longest periods in recent memory.

I-94 reopened Friday afternoon, March 15, from Bismarck to Fargo after emergency crews spent the morning removing stranded vehicles and clearing large snowdrifts that made the road impassable. The interstate closed early Thursday through the east side of the state due to large snowdrifts, said NDDOT spokeswoman Jamie Olson.

Tall, heavy drifts made it difficult for snowplows to move the piles, and the NDDOT had to use snowblowers to cut them down.

This week's storm, which affected much of the Midwest, dropped 10 inches to a foot of snow near Jamestown. Winds gusting between 50 and 60 mph combined with the snow to create drifts.

The worst drifts along I-94 were between Jamestown and Buffalo, transportation officials said. Photos show stranded vehicles along the interstate, snow piles taller than squad cars and drifts that seem to swallow up lanes with no way to tell where the interstate ends and the ditch begins.

One semi was shown partially buried in snow, appearing as if it went off the interstate into the median.

Emergency crews removed stuck vehicles and their passengers in the early morning hours Friday, Olson said. The NDDOT cleared I-94 enough to make it navigable. Most of the interstate was returned to good driving conditions by 4:30 p.m. Friday, though some spots of ice and slush between Jamestown and Fargo remained, according to the NDDOT.

A New Year's Eve storm in 2010 caused the interstate to close from Dec. 30, 2010, into Jan. 2, 2011, between Fargo and Bismarck, the last time that section of I-94 was closed for more than 24 hours, Olson said.

I-29 also closed Thursday morning from Fargo to the Canadian border due to drifting snow, but it reopened Friday morning along with U.S. Highway 2 from Devils Lake to Grand Forks.

Many highways in southeast North Dakota, especially south of I-94, remained closed throughout the day but reopened by late afternoon Friday, with the exception of several roads south of Jamestown.

"Due to the snow drifts, there are a number of roads that are blocked and impassable, and it will take a significant amount of time to clear roadways," according to the NDDOT release.

No travel was advised Friday for southeast North Dakota, including Jamestown, Valley City, Ashley, Ellendale, Fargo and surrounding areas, the NDDOT said.

For more information on road conditions, call 511 or go to www.dot.nd.gov.

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