A blizzard warning issued by the National Weather Service is in effect for much of North Dakota through Thursday morning, with the Bismarck-Mandan area expected to see heavy snow and 60 mph winds.
“It’s looking like an intense storm for the Bismarck area,” NWS forecaster Jeff Schild said.
The strongest winds, up to 65 mph, and as much as a foot of snow could affect an area south and east of Bismarck, from Jamestown south to the Ashley and Napolean areas, Schild said.
Schild said snow is expected to develop around supper time. Winds will gradually increase to create blizzard conditions by about 8 p.m. Those conditions will persist through the night and into morning.
“It’s a strong blizzard, but it’s what happens in March in this area,” Schild said. “If you have travel plans, now is the time to go. Tomorrow you won’t be traveling much. There will be a lot of roads closed around the region.”
Due to the winter storm, Bismarck Public Schools and Mandan Public Schools canceled classes Thursday. The University of Mary also canceled classes Thursday.
Jeff Heintz, director of service operations in Bismarck, said crews spent Wednesday widening narrow areas and making sure water runoff from the additional snow can go where it needs to go. Crews are to man 12-hour shifts beginning at 4 p.m. Wednesday, working mostly on emergency routes at first, until the snow removal is completed.
"Once we're comfortable with the emergency routes, then we'll start on arterial streets and residential areas," he said.
Heintz said even if the wind goes down Thursday night as expected, crews may still have to work Friday and Saturday to get streets opened. He's urging people to stock up on food and other necessities in case of power outages. They should also get their vehicles off the streets so plows can get through after the storm passes.
"If things get bad and you can't see, you should not be out driving around," he said.
Rob Carolin, director of alumni and public relations at University of North Dakota Law School, said the North Dakota Law Review Energy Law Symposium scheduled for Thursday at Bismarck State College has been postponed until April 11. Nearly 200 people had registered for the event, with some coming from as far away as Colorado and Utah. At least half of those planning to attend would have had to travel from outside the area.
The city of Lincoln declared a snow emergency effective from 10 p.m. Wednesday until 6 p.m. Saturday. Vehicles will be towed during that time if parked on snow emergency routes, which include Belk Drive, Benteen Drive (Lincoln Road to Santee Road), North Benteen Drive, Carlin Drive, Custer Drive, Eckleson Road, Benteen Drive to 52nd Street SE, McDougall Drive (Lincoln Road to Belk Drive), Stanley Drive, Santee Road-West Santee Road, Allen Drive, Humbert Drive and Dolan Drive.
Meanwhile, livestock owners are gearing up for another round of snow.
“Dairy farmers are checking their backup generators to make sure they are fueled and ready," said Kenton Holle, a Mandan dairy farmer and vice chairman of the North Dakota Livestock Alliance. "This one (storm) is a special challenge because we are still digging out from the last blizzard and now have to prepare for new snowfall plus high winds.”
A high temperature in the low 30s is expected on Thursday. Temperatures will be in the low to mid-30s through the weekend, Schild said.