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I-94 back open after second late-season blizzard hits northern Plains

Nearly 300-mile stretch shut down for 24 hours

(Photo: NDDOT)

A second late-season snowstorm shut down interstate travel over the weekend in parts of the Dakotas, repeating a similar situation from 10 days ago.

According to transportation officials, Interstate 94 was shut down Saturday afternoon from Bismarck, North Dakota, to Glendive, Montana, and reopened about 24 hours later. That’s a stretch of nearly 300 miles.

A few parts of western North Dakota were hit with 18 inches of snow, with many areas seeing 8 to 12 inches.

Brandon Gale, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Bismarck, says April snowstorms aren’t unusual in this part of the country, but they’re usually one-offs.

“It’s not unusual for us to get these Colorado lows in April and for us to get blizzards and heavy snowstorms. But I would say it’s unusual to have two of this magnitude in back-to-back weeks,” Gale told FreightWaves.

Gale said the impacts of the storm are greater than what the snow totals say.

“The snow was very heavy and wet this time, so it compacted a lot easier than with the snowstorm the week before,” he added.

This made the roads extremely slick and dangerous, and there were areas of freezing rain that did not occur with the previous storm. Strong winds also knocked out power in many areas over the weekend, which may be why the automated surface observing system at the Williston, North Dakota, airport isn’t working, according to Gale.

Interstate 90 in South Dakota was also closed for a while from Saturday into Sunday but is back open. However, roads may remain slick Monday in parts of the region.

Gale said another storm may hit the Dakotas this coming weekend, producing mostly rain and potential flooding.

Major lanes of concern

  • Interstate 90 from Pierre to Rapid City, South Dakota.
  • Interstate 94 from Bismarck to Glendive.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.