By Brad Mosher
It was predicted to be a “Category Five” blizzard in North Dakota with the possibility of causing massive closures and power outages throughout the state.
For western North Dakota, the blizzard proved to be much less than predicted while the storm hit central and eastern North Dakota hard.
Still, when the storm hit Thursday, it forced the closure of the state’s major east-west freeway, I-94, with icy conditions east of Dickinson and east of Bismarck all the way to Fargo.
While the rest of the state was hit with heavy snow, winds and road closures, the impact was less so in the western part of the state.
Highway 22 remained open with icy conditions and warnings from the Department of Transportation to reduce speed on roads in the area.
But for the farmers in North Dakota, the change is weather has had an immediate impact, especially in the eastern part of the state where crops had not been harvested yet.
Western farmers hit
The recent bout of harsh winter weather has actually given some farmers a break, according to Hettinger County’s NDSU Extension agent Duaine Marxen. “With the wind and the amount of moisture coming down, yes we lost a few beets and depending on how many guys still have beans out there.
“Anyone with canola … yeah this would be tough on them.”
The area first was hit by a frost on Sept. 27, Marxen said. “That wasn’t county wide. It was on the east side of the county.” Later, on a trip down Highway 49, he saw other crops that had been touched by frost.
“Since the, everybody has been hit. That was the first frost date (Sept. 27), but on the west side of the county, it wasn’t quite that soon, but it wasn’t that many days after.”
Marxen even noted that the durability of sunflowers couldn’t hold off the cold for long. “Sunflowers can take the frost pretty good, but when you start going down to 27 (degrees), that’s going to take them out.”
Growing season ended for most farmers when they had their first 27 degree night, the county agent explained. “27 (degrees) is enough to end everything,” he said. “That is why when you look through the country, the corn is all brown.
“The biggest issue is about the maturity level of corn. About 85 percent of the corn was mature. There is going to run about 15 percent that wasn’t or that was late planted and didn’t make it. So that corn is going to be wet and a little light.”
Soybean crops have been the most impacted by the recent cold weather, Marxen said. “The first snow went away fast enough. It was gentle and it went away fast. That never touched the soybeans. This storm, with that wind, that we got Wednesday night… that was the one that hurt. If you had beans out there, you could have some pod shatter.”
The losses the farmers face may enough to hurt but not use insurance to help, the agent said.
“We had most of the beans harvested already. You are going to have a little bit of loss,” he said, noting that the weather was supposed to improve through the middle of the month. ”If we have more of a normal week, it won’t be long. Even could air would not be that bad because the ground is now saturated.”
When comes to harvesting in Hettinger County, most of the wheat is already done, he said. “The canola still has a little ways to go. Virtually, those two (wheat and canola) are done. Soybeans, we have 60 to 70 percent of them done. Corn we haven’t started yet.
The last couple of snows are not going to affect sunflowers or corn, he added.
To the north of Dickinson, Dunn County escaped being hit by a meaningful amount of snow over the long Columbus Day weekend
To the south of Dickerson, Stark, Hettinger, Slope, Bowman and Adams counties were hit enough to force several schools to change their schedules.
Some, like New England and Mott-Regent changed the schedule to start one hour late.
The Mott-Regent/New England final home game was rescheduled to be played Monday because of the snow conditions.
While the snow caused some changes in western North Dakota, the impact was greatest to the east. Even when the western counties were starting to thaw out Friday, places like Bismarck were still being hit. Bismarck had a record six inches of snow Friday.
In Grand Forks Thursday morning predicted that it was the highest snowfall forecast in a 30-year career.
There were reports that the second October snowstorm to hit the state in two weeks left about 30 inches, with Bismarck getting a total of 17 inches.
Other parts of the state reported much higher totals. In Jamestown, there were reports of snowdrifts reaching 60 inches in some locations.
But it was the northeastern part of the state hardest hit.
The North Dakota Highway Patrol advised motorists Friday that motorists traveling east on US 2 or southeast on US 52 to find accommodations in Minot or before reaching Minot. They also gave the same warning to drivers going westbound from Fargo because the interstate was closed to traffic.
While the eastern part of the state was being hammered by snow and high winds, it was the high winds that were a big cause for alarm to the west.
Dunn and Stark counting were issued a weather warning Saturday which asked drivers to be wary because of icy conditions on the road and winds gusting as high as 40 miles per hour.
In Hettinger and Adams counties, the original weather alert went out with a winter storm warning issued Oct. 10 , which covered through Friday morning originally. It predicted snows up to two inches with icy and slippery roads and wind gusts up to 35 miles per hour.
In Bowman, the storm forced some rescheduling, with the Thursday volleyball game against Mott-Regent moved to Monday (Oct. 14) and the junior high football game in Lemmon scheduled for Monday being canceled .
Also the West Regional cross country meet was moved to Saturday Oct. 19.
In Hettinger, school was closed Thursday and started late Friday morning.