Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

Thankful he’s back in Fargo & not stranded along I-94 March 18, 2013

FOX 9 news at 8 a.m. shows just how bad the current weather situation is in Minnesota.

FOX 9 news at 8 a.m. shows just how bad the weather situation is in Minnesota, North Dakota and Wisconsin. Fargo is located above the B in “Blowing.” Faribault lies 300 miles to the south and east along Interstate 35, in the eastern edge of the blizzard warning.

ALREADY SATURDAY AFTERNOON his dad and I were urging him to call Brittany, his ride back to North Dakota State University.

“You need to leave early on Sunday,” we suggested to our 19-year-old. We’d heard the weather forecast for snow and strong winds, creating blizzard conditions. “If you don’t, you’ll end up stranded in some town along I-94 because they’ve closed the interstate.”

He listened. Brittany listened. They left at 10 a.m. Sunday, picking up three other NDSU students en route, arriving six hours later in Fargo. They beat the snow and the wind, if you can ever beat the wind in North Dakota. Many times our son has declared, “It’s a good day in Fargo when the wind doesn’t blow.”

FOX 9 news at 8 a.m. today lists the I-94 and other western Minnesota road closures.

FOX 9 news at 8 a.m. today lists the I-94 and other western Minnesota road closures.

This morning I-94 between Alexandria and Fargo is closed as persistent wind gusts of 40-50 mph sweep through the region creating those white-out conditions, making travel impossible. Along other sections of that interstate, especially in the Stearns County area, the Minnesota Department of Transportation has tagged travel as hazardous.

This morning NDSU is closed. I expect the son is sleeping in.

Even though I’d love to have him home for an extra day of spring break, I’m relieved that my boy is tucked safe inside Johnson Hall. Better there than 300 miles away in Faribault and all of us worrying about how he would make it back to Fargo for classes tomorrow.

You see, always at the back of my mind niggles the memory of a horrific crash along icy I-94 west of Alexandria on February 20, 2012, which killed four young women from Minnesota, all students at NDSU.

TELL ME ABOUT weather and travel in your area. How bad is it out there?

© Text copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

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36 Responses to “Thankful he’s back in Fargo & not stranded along I-94”

  1. Beth Ann Says:

    Ugh. Isn’t it spring yet?? Glad Caleb got back to the safety of school! It is snowing and blowing here—the wind is really picking up and not much is going on. I have not seen or heard any snowplows at all but saw on line that a snow plow hit a couple of cars in town so maybe that is why they aren’t out. 🙂 Good grief. I think we are to get 2-5 inches now. Sigh. Stay warm. At least I got the birdfeeders all filled up yesterday before it started and the birdies are all going nuts right now outside my window!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Snowplow made a swipe down the side street by my house right now. A plow hit several cars in Mason City? Hmmmm, that’s bad.

      I’m wondering if I should shovel now or let Randy blow everything open after work. We have only a few inches of snow, but the wind is supposed to really pick up soon.

      • Beth Ann Says:

        My vote is to wait. It is blowing up a storm out there so anything I shovel will be right back in the same spot in a minute!!! Let Randy do it!

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        I hear ya. But I always feel bad because he has worked hard all day and then he has to come home and spend an hour or more clearing snow from our property and our neighbors. If only we didn’t have such a clunker of a snowblower that fell off Noah’s ark. But at least we have one, right?

      • Beth Ann Says:

        Yes—as I have said before I have been in denial that we live in Iowa so have fought the “buy the snowblower” thing. Perhaps I should deal with it….

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Seriously, you live in Iowa and do not own a snowblower?

      • Beth Ann Says:

        Seriously. On a corner lot. With A LOT of sidewalk. We have a guy who plows the driveway so that gets us out but the sidewalks are usually up to me. Woe is me. Just kidding. It is good exercise but it does not help that we live next to Mr. OCD (who is very nice) who has everything cleared the minute the snow starts to fall! 🙂

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        We are on a corner lot, too, but with sidewalk along only one side. That is good. However, since we live along a main arterial street, the snowplow blasts past our house, sometimes throwing snow onto the sidewalk. I don’t even want to tell you how awful shoveling out the ends of the sidewalk and driveway are. Yes, we have a retired neighbor who is out practically as soon as the first flake flies. We’ve long given up trying to keep up with his pace of snow removal. But since we have school kids and other pedestrians who use the sidewalk, I always feel like I need to get out there sooner rather than later.

  2. Jackie Says:

    Mom’s (and dad’s) know best and it’s admirable when the young ones listen. Glad Caleb is safe and sound at NDSU. Now you and Randy can have a peaceful Monday knowing all is well.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Well, we did direct him to the National Weather Service forecast and I think that was the clincher.

      Fortunately, as we were loading Caleb’s belongings into Brittany’s van, Randy noticed a low rear tire. He suggested she add air before they left. When I saw the look on Brittany’s face, I asked Randy to follow her to a gas station, check and fill the tire. Turns out the tire had only about 10 pounds of air pressure instead of the 30 or so needed. He filled the tire and then recommended she get the tire checked in Fargo. I am quite thankful for my auto attentive husband who kept these kids from dealing with a flat tire or blow-out.

  3. Clyde of Mankato Says:

    The forecast was for the end of the world. It must have happened, or will. Oh how the weather people love hyperbole.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      I suppose they do. Never have I paid as much attention to the weather along I-94 as I have this year with the son in Fargo. I tend to take weather forecasts for that region quite seriously. I suppose that comes from growing up on the prairie and understanding how wind mixed with snow equals blizzard.

      • Clyde of Mankato Says:

        My sister, who lives in SD, and I have kept track of the number of end-of-the world storms they have forecast that have not come true. It’s a lot. Last weekend if my daughter had listened to the Thursday/Friday forecast they would not have done their outing to the city. Remember last weekend, how terrible it was?
        “Wolf, wolf.” “The sky is falling,” cries the weather bureau, afraid that they will miss a bad storm.
        If you buy a cell phone now, as my wife and I did last month, it comes with all sorts of alerts build in, such as Amber alerts and severe weather alerts. Three weeks ago I was driving in heavy traffic in the Cities and my phone screamed at me, scared me to death. It was an Amber alert. It went off every few minutes. The Sprint guy told me I cannot turn off the alerts. You will see that is not true. Yesterday my phone got four alerts for the blizzard and my wife’s got seven. (I have been teasing her that either she is more important or needs more protection.) Each alert told me more precautions to take. Mostly at noon they were telling me in sunny Mankato to rush right home and stay there. It took awhile but I did figure out how to turn off the alerts. But you can, all but the “Presidential Alert.” Whatever that is. I did not see an “Armageddon Alert.”
        The main Mankato weather man, who lives in my building, makes a point of not overstating the weather. He told me he does that because he is so tired of the weather bureau’s hyperbole.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        It is interesting that you should mention the Amber and text weather alerts. I have never gotten them. But Randy got one yesterday.

      • Clyde of Mankato Says:

        Depends on how old is your phone. I suppose it’s all good, but I hate how I keep surrendering control of my life to technology and “Those People.” Do not get me started on the FDA right now, lacking sleep as I am.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        Just got a new phone a few months ago.

        Don’t get me started either on how government is intruding more and more into our daily lives, how government seems to be leaning more toward socialism…

  4. My husband and I both have cousins that knew two of the girls in the tragic accident – my cousin goes to NDSU – on the hockey team. Glad your son is safe:) Happy Monday!

  5. cecilia Says:

    Oh i know exactly what you are saying, a grown child tucked up in bed somewhere is such a relief for a mother.. c

  6. Erin Pluimer Says:

    I live in Sartell and our school and the surrounding districts had a two hour delay this morning and then about 45 minutes prior to the first elementary school opening, they decided to close for the day. I did go out for a bit and thought the roads were fine but I traveled Hwy 15 and that was clear. I know that the winds are expected to pick up so I’m sure the school admin. felt it was best interest of everyone to close.
    Glad to hear your son made it safely to college. When I heard that I94 was closed from Alex to Moorhead I immediately thought of that terrible car accident.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Always best to err on the side of caution when children are involved.

      And, yes, I expect the deaths of those four NDSU students will stick in the memories of many of us for years to come. I am thankful the interstate is closed when conditions warrant.

  7. Up here in the Twin Cities, our schools are open and we’re moving around in spite of the wind and the blowing snow. I, too, remember that crash that killed the four students, so am joining everyone here in being glad your boy is safely back on campus.

    Seems like our school district – Roseville Area Schools – never closes! I’m delighted to report that next year, Abby has decided to attend the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities. She won’t have to go far to return to the dorm after spring break. 🙂

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Kathleen, I can almost see you doing a happy dance at Abby’s decision. Sure makes life a lot easier all around for parents and students when the college is close. Our eldest attend Winona State; the second daughter, the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse; and now our youngest, NDSU. Do you see a pattern of how they kept choosing colleges more and more distant?

      So happy Abby decided. It’s a relief when that decision is reached.

  8. BradG Says:

    My college story. Six of us from U of M Morris set out in a blizzard to see the musical “Hair” in 1972 in St. Paul (Hey, it had nudity, and we had to see it). We didn’t get 30 miles and got into total white-out conditions. We had one person on each side of the car with their head out the window, judging the fence post distance to make sure we were still on the highway. Only went in the ditch once, but had plenty of bodies to push it out. Made the show, and made it back to Morris. As an adult now, boy were we stupid..but then I was only 20.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      That is craziness. Apparently your parents were unaware.

      I remember, in high school, two busloads full of Vesta kids crammed into a single bus heading home early from school the 20 miles from Wabasso to Vesta along the main highway. The bus driver drove with the door open and a kid posted on the steps watching to make sure we stayed on the highway. Now that was stupid, too.

  9. That was a smart move! I remember facing those same questions – not wanting to leave home early….but knowing it would be smart. I know of another NDSU girl from here who was stuck in Watertown, SD, because she didn’t leave soon enough.

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      If the need ever arises, I will pull that “stuck in Watertown, SD” story out of my mom’s bag of useful, persuasive references. Thanks for that tidbit.

      • Glad I could add to the “useful mom bag”!! 🙂 She was there for at least two days that I’m aware of.

      • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

        I am not surprised. Not at all given how the wind blows snow in the Dakotas and parts of western Minnesota, creating instant blizzard.

  10. Adam Says:

    Audrey, First of all the supposed blizzard totally missed Walnut Grove yesterday, but I guess that means we won’t have to make up a day of school. Last weekend when we were headed home from Aberdeen we were going to head out Saturday but decided not to because of the roads. When we left Sunday they weren’t any better. It took us over 5 hours when it is normally 3 1/2. Also came across a Jack-knifed Semi on I-29 by Watertown. Kept praying no one would hit us as we see cars sliding all over the road behind us trying to stop. About a month ago after a basketball game the referees had to stay at our house because of the blizzard conditions. It took 45 minutes to get from Westbrook to Walnut. Needless to say I’m ready for Spring to come!!!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      Oh, my goodness, Adam. So thankful you and Adrienne and baby Hank made it safely back to Walnut Grove from Westbrook. Also, the referees at your house remind me of the time the Schwans man was stranded at the farm and a neighbor once, too, during a blizzard. Not when I was still home, but when Brian lived there.

  11. I made mine and her roommate leave on Sat!!! Less stress for me!

    • Audrey Kletscher Helbling Says:

      That earlier departure crossed my mind, but I didn’t think “the kids” would go for leaving that early. Glad your daughter made if back to Grand Forks before the storm.


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