NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — October 30 to November 5 is Severe Winter Weather Week, and as luck would have it, this year’s event falls on the heels of last week’s storm — which gave Bismarck a record snowfall of 8.5 inches on October 26.

To help the residents of North Dakota once again be prepared for the deep freeze, the North Dakota Department of Transportation held a press conference on Monday, October 30, to deliver a few useful reminders.

This winter, North Dakota and the rest of the country will be experiencing a weather pattern known as El Niño. The term, which means “little boy” in Spanish, is a general warming of the Pacific Ocean near the Equator that occurs every two to seven years. Warm surface waters are replaced by colder flows coming from the depths, which changes the way storm patterns travel across the globe between October and March.

“This one, we’re thinking, will be a strong El Niño,” stated JP Martin with the National Weather Service, “and there’s even a one in three chance that this El Niño could be historical.”

On top of this, the blizzard has already left a mark on our state in the form of icy roads. As such, road safety — especially when snow plows are out — was one of the key topics at the forefront of the day’s discussion.

“Just because the speed limit is 75, doesn’t mean you should be driving 75,” said NDHP Major of Operations Tom Iverson. “It’s actually against the law. There are North Dakota Century Codes that say you need to drive for conditions. Our officers will make traffic stops for vehicles that are driving too fast for conditions. Be alert, turn off your cruise control, be patient, and don’t crowd the plows. Give them the space they need. They are out there trying to make these roadways safer for all of us. “

NDDOT also states that if a road is closed, one should not try to drive on it. Even on open roads, if snowplows are out, drivers are encouraged to use caution while in their vehicles.

“I want to remind motorists that traveling on a road closure is a $250 fine in North Dakota,” Iverson stated. “There was some legislation passed last session adjusting the verbiage of that law basically saying that if you are traveling on a road that is closed and its been announced to the public, you’re in violation of that law. That’s not just the interstate system, but all secondary roadways in North Dakota.”

Officials remind those behind the wheel to stay back from other vehicles, to take their time on winter roads, and to always wear their seatbelts. Drivers are also reminded to have an emergency kit in their vehicle which includes jumper cables, a flashlight, a small shovel, blankets, food, water, and a first aid kit.