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I-94 closed as blizzard hits northern Plains

Nearly 500-mile stretch off-limits from Montana to North Dakota

(Photo: North Dakota DOT)

A large section of Interstate 94 remains closed as a blizzard continues to hit the northern Plains.

As of early Wednesday morning, a nearly 500-mile stretch of the highway was still off-limits from Billings, Montana, to Jamestown, North Dakota. The closures began Tuesday afternoon and, according to transportation officials, are likely to continue Wednesday.

The storm has already dumped anywhere from 12 to 48 inches of snow in parts of the region, along with wind gusts of 50 to 60 mph.

Alex Edwards, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Bismarck, North Dakota, told FreightWaves that a blizzard of this magnitude in mid-April is “uncommon but not unprecedented.”

Edwards said a late-season storm like this one happens about once every 10 to 20 years in this area. He added that comparable April blizzards buried parts of North Dakota in 2013 and 1997, shutting down the Bismarck area for a few days.

So far, Bismarck has received about 12 inches of snow from the current storm, which began early Monday morning. Edwards expects at least another 12 inches there, as well as other places along I-94, before the storm begins to fade Thursday evening.

Edwards also said strong winds will become more widespread Wednesday, with gusts remaining in the range of 50 to 60 mph. This will produce additional periods of blowing and drifting snow, along with whiteout conditions.

Blizzard warnings from the NWS remain in place across eastern Montana, most of North Dakota and northern South Dakota until Thursday evening.

Interstate 29 is also closed, from Fargo, North Dakota, to the U.S.-Canada border, according to the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

This blizzard has spread across the border into south-central Canada, so trucking and supply chain impacts are likely on portions of the Trans-Canada Highway in the Winnipeg area.

Major lanes of concern

  • Interstate 29 from Fargo to the U.S.-Canada border.
  • Interstate 94 from Billings to Jamestown.
  • U.S. Highway 2 from Cut Bank, Montana, to Grand Forks, North Dakota.

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.