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Blizzard Halts Travel, Ice Storm Downs Power Lines

November 17, 1996

FARGO, N.D. (AP) _ Heavy, wind-whipped snow shut down major highways in eastern North Dakota for part of Sunday, stranding travelers and blocking streets with stuck vehicles.

As much as 13 inches of snow fell overnight in Fargo and adjoining Moorhead, Minn., and 11 inches at Grand Forks, the National Weather Service estimated. Wind gusted to 50 mph in parts of both states. The northeastern corner of South Dakota also got 11 inches.

Blizzard warnings were posted for northeastern North Dakota and extreme northwestern Minnesota. Freezing rain caused power outages in southwestern Minnesota.

North Dakota closed north-south Interstate 29 and about 60 miles of I-94 west from Fargo overnight. Crews reopened I-94 Sunday afternoon, but 95 miles of I-29 remained closed south of the Canadian border.

About 100 people spent the night at a gasoline station and convenience store off I-94 in Valley City, owner John Hill said. An all-night cafe next door supplied food.

``We’ve had a full house of people just waiting,″ said Rita Winings, manager of the Hilltop Cafe. ``Some were playing cards because they couldn’t go anywhere.″

``I’m on my second meal in about four or five hours,″ said David Williams, a truck driver from Mount Vernon, Wash., waiting to resume his trip to Chicago. ``I’ve been here for coffee twice and I read the newspaper.″

Snow also piled up in towns.

``There’s a lot of cars that are stranded in the streets, blocking the streets,″ Fargo police Lt. John Sanderson said. ``Our people are in four-wheel drives; one is stuck and a wrecker that went out to get him is stuck.″

State highway official Jerry Klinger said many underpasses in the Fargo area were blocked by snow.

In southwestern Minnesota, ice from freezing rain that began Saturday combined with the wind to snap tree limbs and power lines.

Crews worked Sunday to restore power to customers in Nobles, Martin, Lyon and Lincoln counties, and utility officials said some outages were expected to continue into Monday.

Up to half the people in Nobles and Martin counties, a largely agricultural area including the city of Worthington, were without electricity Sunday morning, said Bill Motl of Nobles Cooperative Electric in Worthington.

Ice also brought down power lines in parts of southeastern South Dakota. Sioux Valley-Southwestern Electric cooperative said up to 5,000 customers lost power and half were still blacked out Sunday afternoon.

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