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Published March 23, 2011, 12:36 PM

Spring Snowstorm Shuts Down ND Highways, School

An early spring storm smothered North Dakota with ice and snow, shutting down highways, businesses, courthouses and schools throughout the state on Wednesday — added moisture that could exacerbate the potential for spring flooding throughout the state.

By: James MacPherson, Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — An early spring storm smothered North Dakota with ice and snow, shutting down highways, businesses, courthouses and schools throughout the state on Wednesday — added moisture that could exacerbate the potential for spring flooding throughout the state.

National Weather Service reports showed more than a foot of heavy, wet snow in fell some areas beginning Tuesday. Temperatures across the state were expected to stay below freezing for about a week, forecasters said.

Major highways in North Dakota that were shut down by the storm began reopening early Wednesday, but travel remained difficult or impossible in many areas.

"It's ugly out there," said rancher Paul Smokov. "The temperature is not so bad but you can't get around and the roads are closed."

Smokov and his wife, Betty, were battling nearly a foot of slushy snow Wednesday morning, trying to tend to newly born calves on their 1,750-acre ranch near the central North Dakota town of Steele.

North Dakota Emergency Services Department spokeswoman Cecily Fong said there were reports of some power outages throughout the state on Tuesday but most power had been restored by that evening.

"We lucked out," Fong said. "It could have been bad."

Minot airport director Andy Solsvig said Tuesday afternoon flights were canceled because of strong winds, low visibility, and icy conditions. Flights resumed on Wednesday, he said.

Fargo officials were taking a wait-and-see approach on the storm's potential effect on spring flooding. Deputy mayor Tim Mahoney said the cold snap expected to follow could put the needed brakes on melting.

"If this will slow it down a bit, that should be good," Mahoney said.

Mahoney said he believes the next flood forecast by the weather service expected Friday or Saturday should be better than the last report.

"The mayor is thinking that the ground has soaked some of it in," he said, referring to Mayor Dennis Walaker, who takes regular tours of the southern Red River Valley to assess conditions.

Smokov, 86, said he anticipated spring storms from studying pig spleens, a forecast method he learned from his Ukrainian parents. The spleens this year were narrow where they attached to the pig's stomach, and then widened, which usually means harsh spring weather, he said. The Smokovs said they stocked up on heating fuel and diesel for their tractors based on that.

"The spleens are telling us we got some winter left, and by golly, they've been close to 100 percent right," Smokov said. "The spleens say there won't be a big thaw until the middle of April."

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