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UPDATED: Bemidji area in winter storm warning; road conditions expected to worsen

Maintenance workers brush away and scoop the snow and slush on Monday in front of the BSU Library. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 1 / 3
Joe Welle scoops away the slush on Monday from the sidewalk in front of his home on Birchmont Drive Northeast. (Jordan Shearer | Bemidji Pioneer) 2 / 3
Road conditions around Bemidji as of early Monday evening on the Minnesota Department of Transportation map; pink roads are completely covered while blue indicates partially covered roads. 3 / 3

BEMIDJI -- Blizzard-like conditions were expected to move into Bemidji on Monday afternoon and much of the region was in either a winter storm warning or blizzard warning through Tuesday.

The Bemidji area was expected to see between 3 to 5 inches of new snow, with the possibility of up to 7 inches in some areas, and windy conditions were expected to cause drifting and blowing snow, making for low visibility on the roads, according to the National Weather Service office in Grand Forks.

The Bemidji area was in a winter storm warning through midnight, with a blizzard warning issued to the west into the Red River Valley. The towns included in the winter storm warning were Bemidji, Red Lake, Redby, Ponemah, Bagley, Clearbrook, Park Rapids, Lake Itasca, Perham, New York Mills, Wadena and Menahga, among others.

Road conditions in the Bemidji were expected to worsen Monday into Tuesday, as rain preceded the snow in the area, and temperatures fell into the single digits Monday night, causing icy roads.

The Beltrami County Sheriff's Office warned of what's called "flash freeze" on Monday afternoon; that's when wet surfaces, especially those untreated, will quickly turn to ice as the temperature continues to drop.

At about 1 p.m., Bemidji Area Schools canceled all after-school activities. Buses were expected to run on time, said Superintendent Jim Hess. Other schools in the region closed early, including in Red Lake and Clearbrook-Gonvick.

The storm system started south of the Red River Valley in Minnesota and North Dakota, pushing its way north and to the east. Much of the valley was in a blizzard warning most of Monday, with more snowfall expected in north-central and northwest Minnesota.

The storm caused cancellation of schools throughout the Red River Valley, including in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, as well as in northwest Minnesota, such as in Thief River Falls and Crookston.

The weather service said snow totals would increase to the north and east of Bemidji, with some areas such as Thief River Falls expected to get 6 to 8 inches of snow, and Baudette, Minn., which could get up to 8 to 12 inches, meteorologists said.

The weather service and the Minnesota Department of Transportation warned residents to make alternative plans to avoid travel. If they must travel, officials said drivers should prepare a winter emergency kit and watch the forecast for updates.

MnDOT also offered these winter driving tips:

  • You can check road conditions at www.511mn.org or call 511.
  • Be patient and remember snowplows are working to improve road conditions for your trip.
  • Stay back at least 10 car lengths behind the plow, far from the snow cloud.
  • Stay alert for snow plows that turn or exit frequently and often with little warning. Plows may also travel over centerlines or partially into traffic to further improve road conditions.
  • Slow down to a safe speed for current conditions. Snowplows typically move at slower speeds.
  • Remember that it takes time to get roads back to good driving conditions after storms such as this.

As of Monday evening, most roads in the Bemidji area were listed as partially covered with snow/sleet/ice, while most of the roads in northwest Minnesota to the North Dakota border were listed as fully covered as of early Monday evening. You can find the road conditions map at https://hb.511mn.org/.

Here’s the forecast for the immediate Bemidji area from the weather service:

  • Tuesday: A 40 percent chance of snow after 7 a.m. Patchy blowing snow. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 12. Blustery, with a west northwest wind 20 to 25 mph, with gusts as high as 34 mph. New snow accumulation of less than a half inch possible.
  • Tuesday night: A 40 percent chance of snow, mainly before 1am. Patchy blowing snow before 7 p.m. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 5. Blustery, with a west northwest wind 16 to 20 mph, with gusts as high as 34 mph.
  • Wednesday: A 20 percent chance of snow before 7 a.m. Partly sunny, with a high near 13. Northwest wind 14 to 16 mph, with gusts as high as 28 mph.
  • Wednesday night: Partly cloudy, with a low around 4 degrees below zero. Northwest wind 8 to 14 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph.
  • Thursday: Partly sunny, with a high near 14. West northwest wind around 8 mph.
  • Thursday night: A 30 percent chance of snow, mainly after 1 a.m. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 7. West wind around 8 mph.
  • Friday: A 30 percent chance of snow before 1 p.m. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 15. Northwest wind 9 to 11 mph.
  • Friday night: Mostly cloudy, with a low around 1. North northwest wind 7 to 10 mph.
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