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Snow and wind make travel treacherous

The night before, he traveled across the state from Ray, N.D., as he hauled durum wheat.

On the way, he said he saw a couple of rigs in the ditch. Conditions were “blustery,” said Trosen, who lives in Larimore, N.D.

But even as snowfall tapered off in eastern North Dakota Thursday afternoon, transportation officials urged residents to exercise caution while traveling.

“I’d suggest getting where you’re going to go before it gets dark,” said Les Noehre, Grand Forks district engineer with the North Dakota Department of Transportation.

Noehre estimated that the department has roughly 350 plows working across the state. The plows’ drivers provide updates about the stretch of highway they’re working on, and that information is compiled on NDDOT’s travel map.

As of Thursday afternoon, no highways had been closed, Noehre said. The state’s transportation department takes into account a slew of circumstances to determine whether roads need to be closed.

“We collaborate with the North Dakota State Highway Patrol and come to a consensus on if the roadway needs to be closed,” Noehre said.

Travel conditions were mostly stable along Interstate 29 between Grand Forks and Reynolds, N.D., during a short drive through the area midday Thursday.

Meanwhile, in Minnesota, state officials work with the Minnesota State Patrol to determine whether to close roads, said Bryan Christensen, public engagement coordinator for the Minnesota Department of Transportation.

“It all revolves around public safety,” he said, adding that the department will make the decision based on whether plows can get through and how many vehicles have gotten stuck, among a number of other considerations.

Officials in both states advised motorists to drive slowly and give emergency vehicles and plows plenty of space to work. They also urged drivers to wear seatbelts.

In a Dec. 27 update, the National Weather Service projected winds as high as 45 mph could hit eastern North Dakota.

Despite the strong winds, air travel continued as scheduled in Grand Forks, said Rick Audette, operations and maintenance manager for the Grand Forks Regional Airport Authority.

As of Thursday afternoon, no flights were canceled at the airport, Audette said. And there was only a minor, non-weather-related delay on a Delta flight earlier in the morning.

“Visibility is still good for the flights,” he said. “The biggest challenge will depend on what the winds do. … Right now, (the runway) is still usable.”