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Published February 29, 2012, 11:54 AM

Snowstorm Shuts Down Schools, Roads in Dakotas

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A winter storm shut down schools and roads, canceled flights and caused scattered power outages in the Dakotas early Wednesday.

By: Blake Nicholson, Dave Kolpack, Associated Press

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — A winter storm shut down schools and roads, canceled flights and caused scattered power outages in the Dakotas early Wednesday.

Numerous blizzard and winter weather warnings and advisories were in effect. As much as a foot of snow was expected in southeast North Dakota and northeast South Dakota by the end of the day, the National Weather Service said. Winds were gusting near 40 mph in some areas.

"We are having some visibility issues, especially out in the open areas," Amy Parkin, a weather service meteorologist in Aberdeen, S.D., told The Associated Press. "That will probably be the norm for the day."

Truck stops in Fargo, N.D., were buzzing with drivers riding out the storm, many of whom were waiting for Interstate 29 to open into South Dakota. Dave Muetzel started his trip in Canada and was trying to get to Boston.

"The weather was fine until I hit here," Muetzel said Wednesday morning from the Petro Travel Center. "I'm just going to wait until it calms down a bit."

Perhaps more treacherous than the roads was the parking lot at the south Fargo truck stop. Muetzel, Dennis Holdeman and Clay Alberts tried to warn people about the icy walk, but a half-dozen truckers slipped and fell in the 10 minutes the three men were outside.

"Oh, no, there goes another one," Alberts said.

The roads that Holdeman and Alberts were taking out of Fargo were open, but they were monitoring reports of accidents and vehicles in the ditch.

"I've jackknifed before. The first time you do it is like a carnival ride," Alberts said.

I-29 between Fargo, N.D., and Watertown, S.D., reopened late Wednesday morning after being closed late Tuesday. I-90 in South Dakota was shut down between Murdo and Chamberlain Wednesday morning, and transportation officials cautioned motorists in both states to be careful in other areas and avoid travel if possible.

The storm moved out of the Rockies and into the Northern Plains on Tuesday and dropped several inches of snow in much of the two states. The precipitation fell as rain and freezing rain in parts of eastern South Dakota. Sioux Falls set a rainfall record for the date with 1.41 inches, breaking the city's 1951 record of 1.19 inches, the weather service said.

Icy conditions contributed to a collision involving a train and a car in Rapid City on Tuesday afternoon, authorities said. The car, with three people inside, slid onto the tracks in the path of a train and was pushed for 130 feet, but no one was hurt.

In southeast North Dakota on Wednesday, West Fargo shut down city offices and the Cass County Sheriff's Office opened a tactical operations center to coordinate responses to emergencies.

The storm was expected to move out of the region by late Wednesday, with a chance for only light snow Thursday and high temperatures in the two states climbing into the 30s.


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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