BISMARCK, N.D. — Residents in parts of the Dakotas began their workweek dealing with icy roads and sidewalks as a three-wave storm began sweeping over the northern Great Plains.
The storm promised to bring significant snowfall to North Dakota and parts of South Dakota midweek and then usher in bitterly cold — and dangerous — temperatures late in the week.
"The arctic has opened up, basically," National Weather Service meteorologist Tony Merriman said.
The weather service issued freezing rain advisories for most of North Dakota and northeastern South Dakota early Monday amid growing reports of traffic problems. Some schools in the two states started classes late or cut back on bus transportation services because of the conditions.
"I'm hoping it gets better as it warms up. When I left my home at quarter to 8, my driveway was a sheet of ice," Bismarck School District spokeswoman Renae Hoffmann Walker said. "Let's just hope it somehow dries up before the snow comes ... so that we don't get that ice under the snow all winter."
The second wave of the system will be moving in over the Rockies on Tuesday and into Wednesday, bringing significant snowfall to parts of the region, Merriman said. Half a foot to a foot of snow could fall in the upper two-thirds of North Dakota, with western South Dakota also seeing half a foot, according to the weather service. Strong winds were expected to blow snow around and create headaches for motorists.
Subzero air is forecast to follow the snow, with northern North Dakota feeling the brunt of the blast Thursday and Friday.
"In northwest North Dakota, Williston, negative 8 to negative 10 for a high," Merriman said. "Those are high temperatures. The lows are much lower than that — negative teens for lows."
Gusty winds could make it feel as cold as 35 degrees below zero in some areas late in the week, he said. Such low temperatures can quickly freeze exposed skin.
The weather began causing problems Sunday. The North Dakota Highway Patrol said it investigated 19 crashes on Interstate 94 between Medina and Fargo. People were sent to hospitals in Bismarck, Jamestown and Fargo, but none of the injuries was considered life-threatening.
In southwestern North Dakota, U.S. Highway 85 was shut down for about six hours Sunday afternoon and evening when a semitrailer hauling a hazardous liquid used in oil and natural gas production went out of control on an icy patch and crashed near Belfield.
An exact estimate of the amount of the Oilperm liquid spilled was not available Monday, but patrol Sgt. Chard Hermanson said "it was enough to flood a ditch."
Crews planned to remove contaminated dirt on Monday, Slope County Emergency Manager Richard Frederick said. There were no signs of any environmental damage, he said. The driver was not cited.
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