BISMARCK, N.D. – Gov. Doug Burgum has declared a winter storm emergency for a severe winter storm March 13-15 that impacted much of North Dakota. The governor also has granted the first group of waivers for school districts that canceled classes because of severe winter weather.
In an executive order signed today, Burgum declared a winter storm emergency for the counties of Foster, Grant, Kidder, LaMoure, Logan, McIntosh, McLean, Nelson, Steele, Towner, and Wells, and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Counties statewide reported more than $1 million spent on snow removal for the storm, according to the results of a survey conducted by the state Department of Emergency Services and reported to the Governor’s Office on Sunday.
“This storm resulted in life-threatening conditions, excessive snow removal costs and widespread infrastructure damage, putting a strain on our state’s residents, tribal nations, cities, counties and townships that were already dealing with the impacts of multiple heavy snowfalls this winter,” Burgum said. “Local officials are concerned about having enough funds to support flood-fighting operations, and this emergency declaration is a step toward pursuing a federal disaster declaration that could bring additional resources to our local political subdivisions.”
The blizzard brought sustained high winds and up to 12 inches of heavy, wet snow. It forced the closure of portions of Interstate 94 and 29 for nearly 1½ days and made many state highways and local roads impassable, impeding emergency response, placing the lives of residents and first responders at risk, isolating rural residents for several days and resulting in multiple accidents, several of which involved school buses sliding into ditches, requiring the rescue of children and their drivers. The storm also created hardship for businesses and ranchers during calving season, damaged homes, public buildings and other infrastructure and disrupted power and postal service.
Burgum indicated in February he would consider waving weather-related closure days if, as required by state law, a district has made every effort to make up the missed instruction time. So far, the governor has waived a combined total of 44 days for 19 school districts. Based on hours of instruction, those districts have collectively surpassed the state-mandated instructional requirement by a combined 306 days.
Additional waiver requests are being processed and may be granted in the coming weeks.