Heavy Snowstorm, Record Cold Balk Spring in Northern Plains

From Associated Press

An intense snowstorm Monday interrupted spring in the northern Plains. With snow more than a foot deep, record cold and winds gusting up to 90 m.p.h., North Dakota state workers got the day off, classes at scores of schools were canceled and travelers were stranded.

Five people died when their plane crashed in blizzard-like conditions in Nebraska, and one traffic death was blamed on the weather. A motorist was missing in South Dakota.

"We have a raging blizzard here. Visibility in the Aberdeen area is so bad you can't see your hand in front of your face," Brown County, S.D., Sheriff Steve Oakes said.

The storm's eastern edge carried heavy rain that threatened to cause flooding in the eastern Dakotas. To the south, overnight thunderstorms with hail and high winds caused damage in Arkansas and Oklahoma.

Williston, in western North Dakota, had 15 inches of snow, a record for April. The National Weather Service said that parts of the state could get as much as 20 inches of snow.

Snow blown by winds at 20 m.p.h. to 45 m.p.h. reduced visibility to zero across central South Dakota and south-central North Dakota. Gusts up to 91 m.p.h. were reported at Mitchell, S.D., and to 86 m.p.h. at Yankton, S.D. Many roads in North Dakota were impassable.

Power Lines Downed

North Dakota state workers were given the day off and dozens of schools canceled classes. Rural electric customers around Fargo were left without power as ice coated power lines and tree branches.

North Dakota's State Radio Communications reported no serious accidents but "quite a few" vehicles in ditches, said spokesman Ed Schlenker. Some trucks jackknifed on highways, and efforts to help stranded motorists were hampered by the snow and poor visibility, he said.

Deep snow, sleet and rain in South Dakota caused power outages, slippery roads, school closings and blizzard and flood warnings. Interstate 90 east of Rapid City was closed for nearly 50 miles.

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