Tuesday, March 21, 2023 - 06:30 pm

BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum today issued an executive order declaring a statewide winter storm disaster for central, northwestern and northeastern North Dakota related to severe fog and ice buildup on power lines in January that knocked down electrical infrastructure and caused thousands of power outages.

In an accompanying letter to President Biden and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Burgum requested a major disaster declaration for the Jan. 16-20 severe fog and ice event for the counties of Burke, Divide, McLean, Nelson, Renville Sheridan and Walsh. The counties of Grand Forks, McHenry, Mountrail and Ward were also heavily impacted by downed power lines but did not have enough damages to exceed their per-capita impact thresholds.

“This series of freezing fog caused widespread impacts across the state, coating the landscape with a thick layer of ice,” Burgum stated in the letter. “The northern regions of the state experienced the greatest impacts with the northwest region experiencing the longest duration of power outages. Electrical cooperatives worked tirelessly to get power restored to all citizens in a timely and cost-effective manner with life safety at the forefront.”

January 2023 was a remarkably foggy month, with the state experiencing a stretch of 15 days of dense fog, whereas North Dakota generally experiences one day of dense fog in the month of January. The fog caused significant ice and frost buildup. Subsequent winds caused the powerlines to gallop, snapping power poles and leading to widespread outages. Preliminary assessments indicate damages are expected to exceed $1.45 million.

The executive order directs all state agencies and administrators to maintain recovery resources and capabilities at high levels in order to execute their responsibilities under the State Emergency Operations Plan. State agencies will coordinate with the appropriate federal agencies to make recovery programs available, implement mitigation measures and facilitate restoration of services and infrastructure.