Emergency plan activated in North Dakota amid fall snowstorm

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum on Friday activated the state’s emergency plan due to what he called a crippling snowstorm that closed major highways and had farmers and ranchers bracing for huge crop and livestock losses.

“The extraordinary intensity of this early winter storm threatens to test the limits of local response capabilities across a large portion of our state,” Burgum said of the plan that places on standby all agency resources, including the National Guard, to respond to weather-related emergencies.

Burgum said the state would “ensure our citizens have the resources necessary to respond and recover from this crippling event.”

The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for northern North Dakota and winter storm warnings and watches elsewhere in the state and into parts of South Dakota and Minnesota through Saturday afternoon. One to 2 feet (0.3 to 0.6 meters) of snow was expected to accumulate Friday in parts of North Dakota with winds gusting up to 65 mph (105 kph).

Dozens of schools in the Dakotas were closed Friday because of deteriorating travel conditions. That follows school closures and travel headaches Thursday in the Great Plains.

Hundreds of miles of miles of Interstates 29 and 94 and U.S. Highway 2 in North Dakota were closed on Friday due to severe winter conditions and poor visibility.

Highway Patrol Sgt. Wade Kadrmas said no traffic fatalities had been reported as of Friday morning.

Carl Jones, a weather service meteorologist in Grand Forks, said the storm likely is historic. He said up to a foot (0.3 meters) of snow already had fallen through much of the state by Friday to be topped by up to 3 feet (0.9 meters) more later in the day.

“These are unheard of amounts for any time of year,” he said.

The north-central and northeastern part of the state was taking the brunt of the storm but Bismarck, in the central North Dakota, had nearly a foot of snow by Friday.

“I’m expecting massive crop losses — as devastating as we’ve even seen,” said Jon Nelson, a state lawmaker who farms several hundred acres near Rugby in north-central North Dakota.

Unharvested wheat in the region probably will be a total loss, he said.

“A lot of the standing stuff is flattened to the ground,” Nelson said. “It’s shot and some guys are putting their combines away and won’t bring them out again.”

Erika Kenner, who ranches with her parents in Leeds, North Dakota, said she felt helpless Friday as she was unable to check on the family’s herd of several hundred cows due to deep, drifting snow.

“I just hear the wind howling and think of those poor cows out there,” she said. “Cattle are tough but this kind of weather just wears on them.”

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