April’s historic winter storms met by historic response

Jill Schramm/MDN Ice coats branches after freezing rain covered the Minot area in an April storm.

The 2022 fall/winter season provided a couple bouts of impressive snowfall that kept the City of Minot’s snow removal teams busy, but they pale in comparison to the wrath that Blizzard Haley brought with it in April.

From April 12-14, Haley buried the region under piles of snow, with the Minot area reporting up to 4 feet of snow. Numerous schools and businesses closed and many events were canceled. Several highways were closed statewide, including the majority of Interstates 29 and 94, until the plows could do their work.

A brief respite from the snow allowed the region to dig out and return to normalcy, but barely a week later yet another storm had reared its head, bringing with it freezing rain and high winds. These blizzard-like conditions once again brought all activity to a complete halt but also brought down thousands of utility poles, leaving thousands of people without power.

Electrical companies and cooperatives found themselves overwhelmed by the devastation, with all of Burke-Divide Electrical Cooperative’s 4,300 customers in the cold. Jerry King, general manager of Burke-Divide Electric Cooperative, told The Minot Daily News at the time, “It’s a challenging time, but the North Dakota people, in my experience, are courageous and they are tough. We have great members of the cooperative. They are out there helping us.”

Help would be on the way. Cooperatives from multiple states sent crews who quickly threw themselves at the task replacing miles of downed lines to return power to those not fortunate enough to have a generator, or an alternative shelter from high winds and low temperatures. Local cooperatives were able to return emergency power to most of the communities and townships, but full restoration wouldn’t come until the end of May.

The timing of the storm caused mounting concerns for rural communities and the many ranchers in the middle of calving season. Some ranchers had been able to make preparations in the days before the storm, by setting up generators and stockpiling hay. According to Paul Jacobson, who ranches west of Max, he had been getting ready for this storm ever since the blizzards in 1997. According to the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association, about 14% of the state’s cattle herd died during the storms.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum eventually declared a statewide emergency, citing flooding in the east, the cost of local snow removal and widespread utility infrastructure damage the severe storms caused.

It was a long road to get out from under everything that Haley and the subsequent storms threw at the region, and the experience is sure to be brought up whenever the forecast takes a turn for the worse. That is until the day comes that it is eclipsed by the next “Blizzard of the Century.”


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