A major storm that stranded hundreds of hunters and hikers with up to five feet of snow in the mountains of the West dropped snow onto the Plains on Wednesday, making highway travel hazardous.
Thick snow and ice downed power lines serving thousands of customers in Utah, Wyoming and Nebraska.
“It’s been quite a storm,” said National Weather Service meteorologist William Alder in Salt Lake City. “Since May, we’ve had just big storms, not small ones.”
“As fast as the storm developed and as much snow as it dropped, I’ve never seen anything happen that fast here,” said Pat Carlin, superintendent of elementary schools in Kingman, Ariz., where schools were closed by deep snow.
Snow Closed Schools
In Wyoming, most outlying schools in Fremont County were closed Wednesday after the storm dropped almost two feet of snow, preventing buses from making their routes, officials said.
Some schools in southwest South Dakota closed early because of the weather, officials said.
Patches of snow and ice coated highways from Wyoming to northern Arizona and from California to Nebraska, but few serious accidents were reported, authorities said.
“We definitely do have some bad roads,” said Shirley Iverson, Utah Department of Transportation spokeswoman. “All our canyon areas are snowpacked.”
The storm, which clogged the Sierra Nevada range with up to five feet of snow, weakened Wednesday in the central Rockies but still spread snow into Wyoming and Nebraska, the National Weather Service said.
Up to 10 inches of snow fell at Lander, Wyo., giving the city an accumulation of 16 inches, and five inches was reported at Kimball, Neb. Snow fell steadily in Colorado’s mountains but Denver got only a dusting.
Ice brought by freezing drizzle during the night broke power lines from Cheyenne, Wyo., to Sidney, Neb. Don Brunner, general manager of the Rural Electric Co. in Pine Bluffs, Wyo., said about 2,000 of his customers were without power for six to eight hours during the night.
Utah Power & Light Co. crews restored electricity Wednesday to 1 1/2 square miles of the Cottonwood section of Salt Lake County where nearly a foot of wet, heavy snow downed lines, said dispatcher Jerry Thomas.
Ely, Nev., had a record low Wednesday of 7 degrees below zero, and in Arizona, a lodge on the south rim of the Grand Canyon recorded a low of 2 below zero. Pendleton, Ore., had a record low of 1 below zero.
In Washington state, where up to 500 elk hunters had been stranded by deep snow in the Cascades and two hunters died, National Guard helicopters resumed searching Wednesday for 100 hunters still believed snowbound.
Use of Helicopters
“They say the helicopters will only be used to pick up confirmed stranded people,” said Yakima County Sheriff’s Sgt. Ken Irwin. “I don’t know how they’ll be spotted and confirmed except by air. . . . And another storm front is coming in.”
One of those who took advantage of a helicopter ride out was Al Hilbert of Seattle. “I was doing fine in a big motor home that slept six with plenty of heat, a three-week supply of food and six quarts of Scotch, but I got to wondering how I would ever get this motor home down and what good I was doing here,” he said.
In central Arizona, the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office searched for three campers who might have been stranded northeast of Payson. The three had not been heard from since they left for a camping trip Sunday, said Lt. Jack Judd.
Heavy rain and thunderstorms drenched Oklahoma, southeast Kansas, Missouri and southern Iowa. Hail the size of golf balls pounded Chickasha, Okla., and severe thundershowers near Thayer, Kan., also produced hail.
In Blanchard, Okla., high winds overturned two mobile homes, blew out windows of the police station and caused minor injuries, officials said.
In Columbus, Kan., four people were killed in the crash of a small plane that went down in a severe thunderstorm passing through the area.