Sub-zero temperatures and wind-chill nearing minus 50 degrees closed roads and the school doors Monday throughout western North Dakota.
By Brad Mosher
County roads were closed in Dunn County, prompted a decision to close the school doors shortly after some students arrived, while Dunn County Sheriff Gary Kuhn put out an emergency advisory against all travel on the county roads Monday.
The county highway department pulled all of the snow plows off the road at 9 a.m. Monday. In a comment posted on their Facebook page, the department said they would reevaluate the road and weather conditions Tuesday. “If conditions have improved, we will be out in full force to get the roads open,” the post added.
In a repeat of Sunday’s weather, there was a no travel advisory for all of Dunn County Monday evening after being hit with a No Travel Alert earlier in the day. In addition, services were canceled at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Killdeer Sunday because of the weather conditions, according to the county emergency management office.
Denise Brew, the emergency manager for Dunn County, said that a big reason the county roads and even the county offices were closed Monday was because of the conditions. It wasn’t so much that the roads were icy, it was the visibility. The visibility was very, very, very bad on top of the dangerous wind chills.”
The decision to close the county facilities came after discussion with the road department, the sheriff and his deputies and other people. “The determination to close down the county business was made by the county commission.”
The county also contacted the Killdeer Public School to update them about what it was doing, Brew added. “They run buses an hour late, then 15 minutes after they got off the bus, they sent everybody home again. That was a positive thing for everybody, getting the students home before the weather got worse,” she explained.
By Monday afternoon, the conditions throughout the county were not just bad. “They were horrible. Not only did the Sheriff’s Department put out a travel advise, but the DOT (state’s Department of Transportation) put out a no travel advise. By late Monday afternoon, there was a no travel advise for everywhere in northwestern North Dakota.”
The conditions improved by Tuesday, she added. “It is better today than yesterday,” she said Tuesday morning. “People are more comfortable going somewhere … plus you have visibility. When you combine pretty much zero visibility and 40 to 50 below wind chills, you don’t want to be out there and you don’t want anybody else to be out there too.”
The emergency manager also wanted to remind people when they leave home to make sure they take a winter survival kit with them for everyone.
In New England, the 56th annual Oyster Stew and Meatball Dinner was also postponed Sunday.
Going into the weekend, the Bismarck office of the National Weather Service advised that below normal temperatures likely for the next two weeks and that the weekend would have near-record lows throughout western North Dakota.
In Hettinger County, both New England and Mott-Regent schools also closed their doors Monday.
According to Mott-Regent School Superintendent Willie Thibault, the decision to close the school was made early Monday morning.
“The head of our county plows came in this morning about eight o’clock and said the county is not sending anybody out. We have got some roads that are not going to be open because the forecast I am looking at right now says wind gusts of up to 46 miles per hour,” he said Monday.
“So school was canceled for today (Monday) at Mott-Regent.”
The Wildfire basketball team still was scheduled to play in the quarterfinals of the Region 7 boys tournament in Dickinson, the superintendent said. “I talked to the tournament manager a little after eight this morning and he said the regional tournament was still on – as we speak. He (the tournament manager) said the phones were blowing up. So, the game is still on. If they don’t cancel it and we don’t go, it would be a forfeit.”
For the superintendent, the news about the condition of the interstate and the state highways was good. “I heard the interstate (I-94) wasn’t bad. On Highway 8, the plows have been out with state since four this morning. There is pillow drifts and finger drifts, but they are passable.”
“We have some areas that are okay and we have some … one of our teachers has a drift and can’t get out of the garage. It looks, in a picture, like it is eight feet high.”
According to the superintendent, the school will make its decisions on a day-to-day basis. “The biggest thing is if the county plows don’t get out, most of our kids are country kids….,” he said noting the difficulty of getting the students to school in current weather and road conditions.
For New England Public School, the decision came early. At first, there was plans to push back the start of classes two hours, but then it was expanded to completely cancel the school day.
According to a school spokesman, the parents are usually notified by text or phone call, but the district also announces the status on its website and on local television stations.
According to Randy Gaebe, the public information officer for Bowman County, the recent weather to hit the county was extreme. “It was as bad a weather as I have seen in a long time,” he said Tuesday. The weather impacts for this weekend were awful cold, wind chill and for blowing snow. There was reduced visibility which caused travel difficulty and no travel advisories on certain days.”
The extreme cold also had an effect on traffic and accidents in Bowman County. “There was less travel… certainly on Sunday,” Gaebe said.
“The wind chills got down to minus-50 degrees or more … 55 below was the coldest I saw on Sunday. Even this morning (Tuesday), it is still 30 below with wind chill,” Gaebe said.
According to the county spokesman, the weather affected Bowman County School. “The school stayed open regular hours, but the buses left early at 2 p.m.”
In Adams County, the county courthouse delayed opening Monday, while the Hettinger School opened two hours later.
There had been a no travel alert Sunday, but by Monday it was lifted by the Adams County Sheriff’s Office and Emergency Management, except for a warning to drive carefully in difficult conditions.
State ends ‘no travel’
All of the no travel advisories issued by the state Department of Transportation were lifted Tuesday morning.
The state had issued no travel advisories in most of western North Dakota Monday because of blowing snow creating areas of zero visibility around Dickinson and other areas around the state.
However, the state still was issuing warnings regarding the weather and road conditions on Highway 22 south of New England to the state line. In addition, there was a similar warning for Highway 8 south of Highway 21 near Mott all the way to Highway 12 east of Hettinger. There were reports of scattered snow drifts on the highway with the possibility of reduced visibility because of blowing snow.
According to the North Dakota Highway Patrol, the no travel advisory was lifted for the western part of the state, including the Dickinson area