LARIMORE — Doug Wilson was a little more than halfway to his destination of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Friday when blizzard conditions forced him to pull his semi-tractor trailer — loaded with a house — off of U.S. Highway 2 north of Larimore.
On Saturday, Wilson’s semi was still stranded along Highway 18 in Larimore, surrounded by 4-feet-high drifts. It was the same for another driver hauling the other half of the house.
Their journey began Thursday in Middlebury, Ind. Highways were good until they neared Grand Forks Friday. They were able to continue traveling until they got about 20 miles west of Grand Forks. There, a North Dakota Highway Patrol officer told Wilson that they needed either to pull over at a nearby rest stop or drive into Larimore. They opted for the latter.
The house was to be delivered Saturday, but with almost 700 miles to go and U.S. Highway 2 closed for more than a day, that wasn’t happening.
Wilson, a long-haul trucker for 30 years, said this was the first time he ever got stranded with a load, but Larimore was a good place to be if it had to happen. Wilson was parked only a few steps from Good Friends Bar and Grill, where he and the other driver were eating during their unexpected layover.
“They’ve been treating us good — good hospitality,” he said.
Larimore received approximately 13 inches of snow, according to the National Weather Service. The highest total in the state was Harvey, at 30 inches. Langdon received 27 inches, Devils Lake 24 and Northwood 17. Grand Forks received about 7.3 inches, according to the National Weather Service.
Some residents in the area believe the localized snowfall was even more yet.
In Devils Lake, Kevin Kuntz was on his 28th hour of work at Holiday Stationstores by mid-morning Saturday. After arriving at the store at 4:30 a.m. Friday, Kuntz was unable to leave because the snow was so deep.
“I would have gotten stuck right here in the parking lot,” he said.
Kuntz estimated 27 inches of snow had fallen in Devils Lake as of about 10 a.m. Saturday.
“Right now, I have one guy with a pick-up and trailer stranded in the frontage road right by my store,” said Kuntz, store manager. “He’s been here for 12 hours and he’s moved about 3 feet.”
People from a nearby hotel were walking to buy food at the Holiday, which is at the corner of U.S. Highway 2 and North Dakota Highway 20, he said.
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“From Rugby to Larimore, the roads were closed. We were right in the middle,” Kuntz said. “We were the only ones open here, because we got stranded.”
Hotel guests on Friday were buying food they didn’t need to heat or that could be cooked in their hotel rooms.
“Junk food: pizzas … sandwiches and stuff to get them through the night,” he said.
Near Churches Ferry, about 20 miles west of Devils Lake, Tammy Tollefson called the weather conditions on her farm Saturday morning “rough.’
“Like everybody else, we’re snowed in,” Tollefson said. She estimated about 3 feet of snow had fallen as of Saturday morning.
“We have not seen a storm like this since April of 1997. Kind of scary seeing this come as our first storm of the year. There are spots in our yard where we had to walk that were hip deep. We’ve easily got 4-, 5-, 6-feet drifts by now. Until we see blades, we won’t get anywhere. That’s how everybody is out here.”
Trees in her farmyard were bent over and broken from the heavy, wet snow, Tollefson said.
“I’ve never seen tree damage like we have this year,” she said. “Not what you expect in October. … Winter is always long, but it’s really long when it starts in October.”
Whether farmers in snowy areas are able to get back into the field to harvest the hundreds of thousands of acres of grain and row crops, sugar beets and potatoes remains to be seen. Northwest of Grand Forks, 2 feet of snow fell near Langdon, where earlier this week farmers were working to combine canola before the snowstorm.
"I think this is going to shut harvest down completely,” said Randy Mehloff, Langdon Research and Extension Center director. “There are 8-feet snow drifts everywhere we look. If I were to take a guess, I’d say everything north of Highway 2 and 200 and everything east of Minot is shot.”
About 25% of the canola in Cavalier County and most of the soybeans are unharvested, Mehloff said.
“It doesn’t look like anything will be picked up again,” he said. “I think right now, the farmers are totally devastated. They’re going to have to look at their bottom lines and activate their insurance programs and see how they come out of this.
“This is going to challenge the best of them.”