August 28, 2015


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Double trouble in Great Plains: 3.5 feet of snow in SD Black Hills; 15 hurt in Neb. tornado

Zack Ruml, 20, of Rapid City, S.D, lifts a heavy crabapple tree branch off of his 1998 Pontiac Gran Prix on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. The branch smashed the rear window and dented the trunk of the car. Trees in the city are still fully leaved and the heavy snow is breaking branches throughout the city.  (Steve McEnroe / The Associated Press)
Brenda Nolting, of Rapid City, S.D., rolls her cart to her car after stocking up on necessities Friday, at a local supermarket in Rapid City.  (Steve McEnroe / The Associated Press)
Chad Hoffman clears snow from the entrance to his apartment building Saturday in Rapid City, S.D. South Dakota emergency agencies are asking snowmobile operators in the Rapid City area to help find motorists stranded by the autumn storm system, brought heavy rain, hail and as many as nine tornadoes to Nebraska and Iowa. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped more than a metre of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 50 cm. (Chris Huber / The Associated Press)
Don Stritecky clears the sidewalk in front of his home with a snow blower in Rapid City, S.D., Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. South Dakota emergency agencies are asking snowmobile operators in the Rapid City area to help find motorists stranded by an autumn storm.  (Benjamin Brayfield / The ASsociated Press)
Broken tree branches cover a vehicle Saturday in Rapid City, S.D.  (Benjamin Brayfield / The ASsociated Press)
Mary Teng stands outside of Lovejoy's Bar and Grill on Friday as the snow falls on Grand Avenue in Laramie, Wyo. Officials warned drivers to stay off the roads in eastern Wyoming Friday, where reports of 5 to 10 inches of snow were common. (Jeremy Martin / The ASsociated Press)
Emergency personnel respond to a crash of a pickup truck on U.S. Highway 20 four miles east of Crawford, Neb. that occured as a snowstorm bore down on the region Friday. All three people in the pickup were declared dead at the scene.  (Eser Graham-Marski / The ASsociated Press)
Several buildings sit damaged Saturday in Wayne, Neb. after witnesses said tornadoes swept through the southeast corner of the community. Some of the greatest damage from tornadoes seemed to be in Wayne, Neb., a town of 9,600 where witnesses said at least four homes were destroyed.   (Dave Weaver / The Associated press)
A house sits among the damage Friday  in Wayne, Neb.  A large wedge tornado is believed to have damaged several buildings in Wayne and the surrounding area.  (Dave Weaver / The Associated press)
Children's toys, including a toy tractor in a tree, are strewn in a field near a damaged house in Hickman, Neb., Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. (Nati Harnik / The ASsociated Press)
Jim Stoddard watches as his travel trailer is pulled from a ditch at the Wagon Train Lake campground on Friday in Hickman, Neb. (Ted Kirk / The Associated Press)
Residents try to free a house panel lodged against a tree in a tornado Friday in Bennet, Neb.. Powerful storms crawled into the Midwest on Friday, also dumping heavy snow in South Dakota and threatening dangerous thunderstorms from Oklahoma to Wisconsin.  (Nati Harnik / The Associated Press)
Travis Randall walks through the debris-strewn yard of his parent's home in Hickman, Neb., Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, after it was struck by a tornado. (Nati Harnik / The Associated Press)
Zack Ruml, 20, of Rapid City, S.D, lifts a heavy crabapple tree branch off of his 1998 Pontiac Gran Prix on Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. The branch smashed the rear window and dented the trunk of the car. Trees in the city are still fully leaved and the heavy snow is breaking branches throughout the city. - (Steve McEnroe / The Associated Press)
Brenda Nolting, of Rapid City, S.D., rolls her cart to her car after stocking up on necessities Friday, at a local supermarket in Rapid City. - (Steve McEnroe / The Associated Press)
Chad Hoffman clears snow from the entrance to his apartment building Saturday in Rapid City, S.D. South Dakota emergency agencies are asking snowmobile operators in the Rapid City area to help find motorists stranded by the autumn storm system, brought heavy rain, hail and as many as nine tornadoes to Nebraska and Iowa. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped more than a metre of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 50 cm. - (Chris Huber / The Associated Press)
Don Stritecky clears the sidewalk in front of his home with a snow blower in Rapid City, S.D., Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. South Dakota emergency agencies are asking snowmobile operators in the Rapid City area to help find motorists stranded by an autumn storm. - (Benjamin Brayfield / The ASsociated Press)
Broken tree branches cover a vehicle Saturday in Rapid City, S.D. - (Benjamin Brayfield / The ASsociated Press)
Mary Teng stands outside of Lovejoy's Bar and Grill on Friday as the snow falls on Grand Avenue in Laramie, Wyo. Officials warned drivers to stay off the roads in eastern Wyoming Friday, where reports of 5 to 10 inches of snow were common. - (Jeremy Martin / The ASsociated Press)
Emergency personnel respond to a crash of a pickup truck on U.S. Highway 20 four miles east of Crawford, Neb. that occured as a snowstorm bore down on the region Friday. All three people in the pickup were declared dead at the scene. - (Eser Graham-Marski / The ASsociated Press)
Several buildings sit damaged Saturday in Wayne, Neb. after witnesses said tornadoes swept through the southeast corner of the community. Some of the greatest damage from tornadoes seemed to be in Wayne, Neb., a town of 9,600 where witnesses said at least four homes were destroyed. - (Dave Weaver / The Associated press)
A house sits among the damage Friday in Wayne, Neb. A large wedge tornado is believed to have damaged several buildings in Wayne and the surrounding area. - (Dave Weaver / The Associated press)
Children's toys, including a toy tractor in a tree, are strewn in a field near a damaged house in Hickman, Neb., Friday, Oct. 4, 2013. - (Nati Harnik / The ASsociated Press)
Jim Stoddard watches as his travel trailer is pulled from a ditch at the Wagon Train Lake campground on Friday in Hickman, Neb. - (Ted Kirk / The Associated Press)
Residents try to free a house panel lodged against a tree in a tornado Friday in Bennet, Neb.. Powerful storms crawled into the Midwest on Friday, also dumping heavy snow in South Dakota and threatening dangerous thunderstorms from Oklahoma to Wisconsin. - (Nati Harnik / The Associated Press)
Travis Randall walks through the debris-strewn yard of his parent's home in Hickman, Neb., Friday, Oct. 4, 2013, after it was struck by a tornado. - (Nati Harnik / The Associated Press)

PIERRE, S.D. - Breaking nearly century-old early autumn snowfall records, a storm system smothered South Dakota's scenic Black Hills in South Dakota with up to three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow, leaving residents the challenge of digging out.

But wintry weather wasn't the only thing delivered by the powerful cold front that crossed the Great Plains, as unusually strong thunderstorms brought heavy rain, hail and as many as nine tornadoes to Nebraska and Iowa. Fifteen people in northeast Nebraska were injured in a tornado Friday, while three died in a car accident on a snow-slicked road.

Traci Krus looks at a pictures of her family that she found in her damaged home Saturday Oct. 5 2013 in Wayne, Neb. A tornado struck the northeast Nebraska town Friday, causing millions of dollars in damage, but the mayor says no one was killed and the injuries reported have been minor. Mayor Ken Chamberlain said that officials have accounted for all residents in town. (AP Photo/Dave Weaver)

Traci Krus looks at a pictures of her family that she found in her damaged home Saturday Oct. 5 2013 in Wayne, Neb. A tornado struck the northeast Nebraska town Friday, causing millions of dollars in damage, but the mayor says no one was killed and the injuries reported have been minor. Mayor Ken Chamberlain said that officials have accounted for all residents in town. (AP Photo/Dave Weaver)

Don Stritecky clears the sidewalk in front of his home with a snow blower in Rapid City, S.D., Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. South Dakota emergency agencies are asking snowmobile operators in the Rapid City area to help find motorists stranded by an autumn storm.

BENJAMIN BRAYFIELD / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

Don Stritecky clears the sidewalk in front of his home with a snow blower in Rapid City, S.D., Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. South Dakota emergency agencies are asking snowmobile operators in the Rapid City area to help find motorists stranded by an autumn storm.

Forecasters said the front would eventually combine with other storms to make for a wild — and probably very wet — weekend for much of the central U.S. and Southeast.

Power outages and impassable roads plagued western South Dakota on Saturday. More than 25,000 people had lost power in the Black Hills area, and authorities were recruiting snowmobilers to help rescue about 80 motorists who'd been stuck overnight.

Rapid City plow driver Jesse Curnow said Saturday morning things weren't moving so smoothly in chest-high drifts after a record 21-inch snowfall. He couldn't get out of the business' parking lot.

"I'm trapped. I can kind of move, but only a little bit," Curnow said by telephone from the cab of his truck.

Pennington County Emergency Management spokeswoman Alexa White said rescue efforts were slow-going, because "the only way to get there is the snowmobiles or the Sno-Cats."

"The plows have gotten stuck in the roads," she said.

Also stuck were four employees of the National Weather Service's Rapid City office. They'd been there since Friday, meteorologist David Carpenter said Saturday.

"There is a 3-foot drift across the parking lot and no one has had the energy to shovel it out yet," he said.

Friday's snowfall — 19 inches — broke the previous one-day snowfall record for October by about nine inches; it was set on Oct. 19, 1919, Carpenter said. Rapid City saw an extra 2.5 inches overnight. Friday also surpassed the record for the entire month, 15.1 inches, also set in 1919.

National Weather Service meteorologist Katie Pojorlie said Lead, S.D., in the northern Black Hills had received 43 1/2 inches of snow by 7:30 p.m. Friday and more had fallen overnight.

That's not unheard of in the area, according to Donna Heaton, manager of the Terry Peak Lodge.

"Last year in April, we got over 50 inches after the ski area closed. It would be nice to help the local economy if all the snow would fall when the ski area and the snowmobile trails were open," she told AP radio.

And in southwest North Dakota, about 10 inches of snow fell Friday, the National Weather Service said.

Interstate 90 was still closed in the western part of South Dakota on Saturday, and officials advised against travel elsewhere as white-out conditions kept snowplows from making much progress on roads until at least late in the day.

"... There's no place to go even if you do get your of your driveway and onto your street," state Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist said in a statement.

Crews with Black Hills Power weren't able to work overnight because of blowing snow, spokesman Mutch Usera said. The Black Hills' rough terrain and downed tree branches were also hampering restoration efforts, he said.

"Hopefully, the sun will shine a little bit and get a bit warmer. That's going to make it easier," Usera said.

When temperatures warm up into the 50s by Monday, the snow melt could cause flooding, White said, but officials are just focusing on rescue efforts for now.

Meanwhile, National Weather Service meteorologist Mike Fuhs said as many as nine tornadoes touched down in Iowa and Nebraska between 6 p.m. and 7:45 p.m. Friday. He called some of them "quite powerful," and noted it was unusual to see so many and with such power during the fall.

Some of the most severe tornado damage was in Wayne, Neb., where at least 10 buildings were destroyed and five were heavily damaged, the Omaha World-Herald reported. Video showed a farm implement showroom and a grain elevator had been destroyed. Mayor Ken Chamberlain said at least 15 people were injured, with one person in critical condition.

In northwest Iowa, nearly two dozen farmsteads were destroyed and 60 damaged, said Woodbury County Emergency Director Gary Brown. He said the storms cut a 35-mile-long path through the county, but there was only one report of a minor injury.

The cold front is moving slowly east and expanding south and will meet up with the remnants of Tropical Storm Karen. Pojorlie noted that the wet, heavy snow was more typical of a spring storm.

"Normally, we get some snow events here in October that give people a little bit of a chance to learn how to drive in snow again," she said. "This year, we got started with a blizzard."

___

Associated Press writers Margery Beck in Omaha, Neb.; Ed Donahue in Washington, D.C.; Dirk Lammers in Sioux Falls, S.D.; James MacPherson in Bismarck, N.D., contributed to this report.

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