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Thousands lose power as ice, snow hit South Dakota

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The Dickinson Press
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Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

MITCHELL, S.D. - A winter storm that brought snow, ice and strong winds into the Mitchell area Tuesday, toppling power lines and causing hazardous travel conditions, is expected to continue today.

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The storm could cover the city with 14 to 18 total inches of snow by Thursday morning, according to Brad Temeyer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls. In other areas of central South Dakota, the snowfall could be closer to 20 inches, he said.

Freezing rain began to fall in Mitchell around 3 a.m. Tuesday and continued through the early morning hours, then turned to snow around 6:30 a.m., Temeyer said. The region east of Mitchell saw a mixture of freezing rain and sleet, while the region west of Mitchell saw more snow.

"Mitchell was on that dividing line where the precipitation was either in liquid or solid form," Temeyer said.

By Tuesday afternoon, about 5 inches of snow had fallen in parts of Mitchell, according to the National Weather Service. After a brief lull in precipitation Tuesday afternoon, Temeyer said the storm would redevelop Tuesday evening and could drop another 5 to 7 inches on the Mitchell area overnight.

Snowfall is forecast to continue through today and into the night before gradually winding down Thursday morning.

To have such a severe winter storm in April is unusual but not unheard of, Temeyer said.

"You can see a storm system like this every couple of years," Temeyer said. "What makes this one so significant is the moisture it's bringing to the region."

About two-thirds of an inch of moisture had already fallen across central South Dakota by Tuesday afternoon, Temeyer said. In all, up to 2 inches of moisture is expected to accumulate in the area from the storm.

"It's pretty rare to see this much ice and then see the widespread snow that we've been seeing across the entire state," he said.

Power outages

Wind gusts between 35 and 50 mph were reported overnight Monday and into Tuesday. Winds between 20 and 30 mph are expected to continue today and into Thursday, Temeyer said.

"We've had a lot of reports of trees and power lines down," he said.

Storm-related power outages were reported in some areas of central South Dakota on Tuesday.

Xcel Energy crews worked Tuesday to restore power to customers in Sioux Falls and other communities, a company news release said. By 10 a.m., power was restored to 5,000 customers, but another 4,000 remained without power.

The outages were caused by downed tree limbs and power lines, the release said.

"Crews have been deployed from Minnesota to assist with restoration," the release said. "But damage to the system is extensive and some customers may not have their power restored until Wednesday afternoon."

According to Hanson County Sheriff Randy Bartlett, about 20 poles carrying power lines were down between Marion and Fulton, causing power outages in Alexandria, Bridgewater, Fulton and Emery.

About 2,200 people west of Huron -- including some in Highmore, Miller, Wessington Springs and Wolsey -- were without power for about 45 minutes after a broken power line caused an outage, said Tom Glanzer, spokesman for NorthWestern Energy.

The strong winds and ice caused a few other scattered outages between Miller and the Mitchell area, Glanzer said.

"We've been able to keep up so far," he said.

Brian Bultje, operations manager for Central Electric Cooperative, also reported storm-related power outages. The largest left 11 people between Letcher and Woonsocket without power for a few hours Tuesday. A pole knocked down by the wind also left one customer in Howard without power, he said, but both outages were repaired within a few hours.

With the snow and wind expected to continue, Bultje and Glanzer said they're watching the storm closely.

"The wind is going to be our major problem," Bultje said. "We've got our fingers crossed."

The Charles Mix County Sheriff's Office also reported Lake Andes and areas south of Wagner had lost power around 4 p.m. Tuesday.

The city of Mitchell declared a snow emergency Tuesday evening, meaning all vehicles must be removed from emergency routes in the city to avoid ticketing and towing throughout the storm's duration.

Despite some icy road conditions in town, Mitchell police Sgt. Mike Koster said there were only two confirmed traffic accidents in Mitchell as of Tuesday afternoon, and both were minor.

A winter storm warning remained in effect for the Mitchell area and was set to expire Thursday morning. Until then, Temeyer said, travel in the area will continue to be difficult.

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