The first winter storm of the season rolled in from the Rocky Mountains on Thursday to dump its power over North Dakota, where it could dump 18 inches (46 centimeters) of snow and whip up winds of up to 50 mph (80 km/h).
The system initially arrived in freezing rain that made driving difficult in the Dakotas. caused a chain-link collision that totaled a state police car and closed Interstate 94 in eastern North Dakota for several hours Wednesday night, and I-29 in eastern North Dakota Thursday for the morning.
The two freeways reopened but travel was considered nearly impossible due to white blindness, the National Weather Service said. Airports in the region reported flight delays and cancellations.
The storm slammed into central North Dakota on Thursday morning. Jacqueline Swiftbird, a cashier at the Mandan truck stop, said a semi pulling other vehicles was stranded in front of her window. She said she was the only cashier who was able to make it to work and that she picked up other restaurant and business employees on site.
“It’s very, very dangerous to be out there,” Swiftburd said. “I have a lot of work because I am the only cashier, but I would prefer that other employees not try to arrive in these conditions.”
Storm warnings were issued for western Montana, southwestern to northeastern South Dakota and northwestern Minnesota, but meteorologist Carl Jones said North Dakota was bearing the brunt of the storm.
The crash that destroyed the officer’s cruiser in North Dakota happened at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday on I-94 near Jamestown, the state Highway Patrol said. The agent got out of the vehicle when he saw that a double semi-trailer skidded on the road. A car crashed into his patrol, but the agent was not injured.
Seven crashes occurred in quick succession, and several people were hospitalized, one of them with a broken leg.