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Snowfall set to break records for October winter weather

A UND student tries to keep dry on campus as steady wet snow continues to fall Wednesday. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 4
A UND student crosses campus during a steady snowfall Wednesday morning. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 4
UND student Kristin Hane clears away snow from her car during Wednesday's storm in Grand Forks. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald3 / 4
Teagan Hood Beckman brushes away several inches of snow off her windshield Wednesday at UND. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald4 / 4

Grand Forks was poised to break records Wednesday, Oct. 11, thanks to wet, heavy snowfall covering a long stretch of east North Dakota.

The National Weather Service's official snowfall measure at its Grand Forks office at 1 p.m. was 2 inches, but meteorologist Brittany Peterson said the area could see another 2 to 4 inches before the snow, which started Wednesday morning, ended. The office also received an unofficial report of 3 inches in the city.

Outside Grand Forks, the snow totals were even higher. Near Grand Forks Air Force Base, 9.3 inches was reported. Thirteen inches of snow was reported south of Valley City, N.D., along with 12 inches in Dazey, N.D., in Barnes County.

"By far, they've gotten the heaviest amounts so far," Peterson said.

Near Grand Forks, the heaviest snowfall was between Larimore and the Air Force base. That was the northern part of a band of heavy precipitation stretching south through Valley City, Peterson said.

"There was a long but narrow band that formed there this morning," she said.

The Oct. 10 snowfall record in Grand Forks is 3 inches, set in 1921, but Peterson expected that to fall once Wednesday's totals are measured. The record for the month through Oct. 15 is 4.2 inches, set in 1985, an amount that was likely to be surpassed Wednesday, Peterson said.

The North Dakota Department of Transportation issued a travel alert Wednesday afternoon for areas near Michigan and Larimore along U.S. Highway 2.

According to the DOT website, a line of slush-covered roads extended from that stretch of Highway 2, through Valley City and to the southern state border.

Grand Forks Police Lt. Derik Zimmel said there have been increased accidents because of the weather.

"This is a little different because it's so wet and sloppy," he said. "We still have a lot of leaves on the roadway, which is really causing things to get slick."

Zimmel urged drivers to slow down, plan for extra driving time and leave extra distance when following other cars. He said conditions outside the city are especially dangerous.

"It's not a typical snowfall, and I think especially out in the county, where the slush is piling up on the side of the road, that's making it even more dangerous because that has the tendency to grab tires and steer drivers right into the ditch, despite the driver's best intentions to stay on the roadway," he said.

The city of Grand Forks closed Belmont Road from Prairiewood Drive to 62nd Avenue South because of poor conditions.

Despite the heavy snow, it did not appear that conditions reached blizzard levels in the region. Visibility was reduced to a half-mile in the heaviest-hit areas, but there were no reports of extended periods of quarter-mile visibility or sustained 35 mph winds, Peterson said, the required conditions for a blizzard. Grand Forks saw winds up to 26 mph with gusts up to 39 mph, according to the weather service website.

A winter storm warning for the area was set to expire at 1 a.m. Thursday, with snow ending between 6 to 8 a.m., according to Nick Carletta of the weather service.

Temperatures in the 40s should arrive this weekend and melt the snow, meteorologist Amanda Lee said. By the middle to end of the month, temperatures will return to normal.

"It's too early for snow to stick around yet," she said.

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