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Kenmare becomes a semi staging area during storm

A two-day winter storm early last week left more than 100 truckers and motorists stranded from the international boundary to Kenmare, a distance of nearly 50 miles.

3/14/17 (Tue)

Waiting out the storm... At least 56 semi-trailers were staged in the Cenex parking lot in Kenmare last Wednesday during a storm shat shut down U.S. Highway 52 for more than 24 hours. Many of them were en route to Canadian destinations but couldn't get past Bowbells until the blocked road could be cleared.

By Marvin Baker

A two-day winter storm early last week left more than 100 truckers and motorists stranded from the international boundary to Kenmare, a distance of nearly 50 miles.

A semi-trailer which stalled for an unknown reason several miles east of Bowbells, caused a road closure that quickly deteriorated during the fierce blizzard. A wrecker wasn’t able to get to the stalled semi because of blowing snow and poor visibility. As a result, people eastbound and westbound became stranded on a portion of highway that is both U.S. Highway 52 and N.D. Highway 5.

People were also stranded in Kenmare, but at least in that scenario, they were off the road and in the Farmers Union Oil Co., parking lot.

At 11 a.m., Wednesday, about three hours before the highway re-opened, 56 semi-trailers were staged at Cenex with another 10 parked at the Quilt Inn.

Chris Adler, who lives in Alberta but was hauling oil field pipe to Bienfait, Saskatchewan, said he was right behind the semi that lost part of its cargo near Bowbells when they both left Minot.

Adler said he stopped in Kenmare to check his load, while the other driver went on toward the international boundary.

“I was right behind him when we left Minot,” he said. “If I wouldn’t have stopped, I would have been stuck out there too.”

It wasn’t long after Adler pulled into Cenex on Tuesday that the North Dakota Highway Patrol had set up a checkpoint at the junction of U.S. 52 and N.D. 5 north of Kenmare.

That formed a line back to Kenmare, a distance of about five miles, so the Kenmare Police Department was out turning people around on the north end of town.

Adler said there was a lot of CB radio chatter warning drivers of the imminent road blockage less than three miles east of Bowbells and some of them pulled into Kenmare without making the attempt to head north.

“So, I guess we’re stuck here for now,” Adler said. “I’m just going to go back to my truck and relax. The only problem is, Bienfait isn’t that far from here.”

Bienfait is approximately 62 miles northwest of Kenmare.

Adler picked up some soft drinks and beef jerky and headed back to his truck to wait out the storm and cleared roads.

He was one of five drivers in Kenmare with Alberta license plates on his rig.

Steve Wilson was hauling furniture from Goshen, Ind., to Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He too was stuck in Kenmare and was becoming impatient.

He was one of the drivers who was turned around just north of Kenmare and advised to find a place off the road.

“I’ve been talking to people,” Wilson said. “The locals are telling me there is a gravel road near here that will get me past the blocked road and over to Bowbells. Then, I can get back on the road to Moose Jaw and Saskatoon. I think I’m going to take it.”

Unfortunately, Wilson wasn’t aware of exactly where that road was, nor what condition it might have been in at the time.

In addition, Saskatchewan Provincial Highway 39 was blocked in several spots Wednesday from the border all the way up to Moose Jaw, according to CKSE-FM radio in Estevan. That’s a distance of about 120 miles.

In addition, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police reported a 16-vehicle pile up between Moose Jaw and Regina because of poor visibility, closing the eastbound lane of the Trans Canada Highway for several hours Wednesday.

Peter Bobyk was on his way to Calgary, Alberta when he got bunched up on the north side of Kenmare and was told to turn around.

He was more laid back than Wilson and said there was nothing he could do but wait until the roads were open. Bobyk was hauling farm machinery parts he picked up in Fargo.

“I don’t like it, but I’ll take advantage of the time here and get caught up on paperwork,” Bobyk said. “Otherwise, I’ll just read the newspaper and relax until I can go.”

Sammie Fromm, a former Kenmare News employee who now lives in Lignite, was stranded in Minot for two days.

Just getting to Minot from Garrison on her way home from Minnesota on Monday was a challenge, according to Fromm.

“We drove through the start of it from Garrison to Minot,” she said. We followed a semi thankfully, and went between 25-45 miles per hour.”

When the blizzard began to taper, Fromm took U.S. Highway 2 to Stanley, knowing U.S. 52 was blocked east of Bowbells. Then, it was N.D. Highway 8 to Bowbells and up to Lignite.

“Bowbells was lined with semis, along with the highway all the way to Flaxton,” she said. “There were many spots where the eastbound lane was still blocked with stranded semis and cars that were in snow drifts.”

Fromm said she had heard that the port of entry at Northgate was blocked as well, but The Kenmare News wasn’t able to independently confirm it.

“The snowplow was just up there,” she said Wednesday. “There is a 6 or 7-foot high drift that is 200 feet wide.”

Meanwhile back in Kenmare, semi drivers were shuffling in and out of the C-store picking up food items, several were in line to take a shower at the C-store facility and still others were in the parking lot talking to each other, much like farmers do at the elevator at the height of harvest.

The Williston Herald reported in its Wednesday edition that about 60 vehicles, mostly semis, were stranded from Bowbells to the accident site, which is less than three miles.

A Montana man the Herald interviewed, said there were snow drifts as high as 15 feet blocking the highway.

By late morning Wednesday, crews had reached the accident site and by late afternoon the road was open and traffic was back to normal.

Burke County Sheriff Jeremy Grohs said he couldn’t pinpoint the reason why the one semi blocked the road near Bowbells.

Where did the trucks stalled in Kenmare originate from?:

Saskatchewan – 10; British Columbia – 9; Ontario – 8; North Dakota – 6; Alberta – 5; Manitoba – 5; Illinois – 3; Iowa – 2; New Brunswick – 1; Quebec – 1; Florida – 1; Washington – 1; Wisconsin – 1; Texas – 1... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!