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Snow closes businesses, highways in upper Midwest

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[March 11, 2009]  FARGO, N.D. (AP) -- Heavy snow driven by wind gusting to 40 mph brought parts of the upper Midwest to a halt Tuesday, closing courts, schools, businesses and two major highways.

Up to a foot of snow was forecast Tuesday for parts of eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota.

The National Weather Service posted blizzard warnings and winter storm warnings for wide areas of North Dakota, South Dakota and Minnesota. All three states reported school closings.

North Dakota officials closed Interstate 29 from the Canadian border to the South Dakota state line. Earlier, Minnesota and North Dakota authorities shut down a 130-mile stretch of Interstate 94 from Jamestown, N.D., to Fergus Falls, Minn.

"There's all kinds of people out there," despite the warnings, and many of them were stuck on roadways, Al Weigel, Fargo's director of operations, said late afternoon.


Those drivers would be picking up the tab for towing, Weigel said.

Truck driver Kyle Kraft had planned a quick trip from Princeville, Ill., to Fargo and back on Tuesday but had to pull into a hotel parking after I-94 was closed.

"The truck stops are jammed-packed with no place to park," Kraft said.

Kraft had packed only his shaving kit. He said he was relieved to discover a shopping mall across the street from his parking place -- but it was shut down because of the storm. "I guess you have to take it all in stride. I don't get paid enough to get upset about it," he said.

It was the worst storm of the winter, said Clay County, Minn., Sheriff Bill Bergquist. He said plows were pulled off most county roads because visibility was zero.

The storm even shut down a popular hangout known for its trademark frozen desserts, the Moorhead Dairy Queen. "It must be bad. No one wants their Blizzard today," Bergquist said.

Fargo snowplow crews could not keep up with drifting snow, public works maintenance supervisor Lee Anderson said. "It's not pretty," he said.

Fargo residents were advised to just stay home.

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"I would say it's a pretty good idea to be stocking up on groceries right now," Fargo resident Mark Walker said as he stopped to use an ATM machine.

"Today would be a great day for people to enjoy maybe a movie at home," West Fargo Police Chief Arland Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen said most businesses in the area did not open Tuesday or closed early, and even North Dakota State University shut down.

"That really made a difference. NDSU usually doesn't close," Rasmussen said.

The weather service said wind was blowing at 30 mph at Fargo, with gusts to 40 mph. The late afternoon temperature was zero with a wind chill factor of 24 below.

Police in South Dakota said icy pavement likely caused an accident Tuesday that killed one man on a rural road. On Monday, an ambulance rolled over on an icy stretch of I-94 west of Fargo, killing the patient it was carrying.

[Associated Press; By DAVE KOLPACK]

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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