Grand Forks Autumn Blizzard
The turn of the century is a time defined by snow for Grand Forks. If the blizzards, storms and flooding of 1996-97 weren’t enough, the autumn of 2001 packed another punch.
On this date in 2001, Grand Forks was digging out from 11 inches of snow that fell the day before. The early winter storm blew in from Canada with temperatures below freezing. Three inches of snow had been forecast, but the storm shattered the prediction. A low-pressure system from northern Minnesota moved into the cold air over North Dakota, intensifying the snow.
People on their way to work that day saw the worst of the blizzard. Winds up to 35 miles per hour made drifts on ramps and roadways. The city’s previous October snowfall record, set in 1926, was broken by three inches. Devils Lake and Cavalier got 10 inches of snow. Grafton got seven. The conditions turned dangerous as the heavy, wet snow turned to ice in the cold. Up to 400 vehicles got stuck on the interstate between Grand Forks and Thompson. Trucks ran into two snow plows. One person was killed in a minivan rollover.
Gusts up to 40 miles per hour brought a wind chill equivalent to seven degrees below zero. The severe weather captured national headlines with reporters calling it a “freak blizzard.”
But the snow wasn’t expected to linger, with highs in the 50s forecast for the coming days.
Dakota Datebook by Jack Dura