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Published February 28, 2012, 09:14 AM

Storm bringing up to 14 inches of snow to Plains

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A storm that might be the worst of the winter swept into the Dakotas on Tuesday, prompting some schools to close and sending people to stores for provisions.

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — A storm that might be the worst of the winter swept into the Dakotas on Tuesday, prompting some schools to close and sending people to stores for provisions.

Most cities in North Dakota and South Dakota were under some type of blizzard or winter weather warning or hazardous weather outlook through Wednesday, the National Weather Service said. The most severe weather was expected in southeast North Dakota and northeast South Dakota, a region that could see freezing rain and up to 14 inches of snow with strong winds.

"In the Aberdeen (S.D.) area, snow totals in this storm could meet or exceed what we've had the whole winter," weather service meteorologist Mike Fowle told The Associated Press early Tuesday.

South Dakota officials urged residents to avoid all non-emergency travel from Tuesday evening through at least Wednesday afternoon.

The line between rain and snow was shifting further north than expected, leaving drivers in Sioux Falls, S.D., dealing mostly with rain and freezing rain on Tuesday. The precipitation was slated to turn to snow overnight, but South Dakota's largest city was likely to see lower accumulations of about an inch.

School closures were reported in advance of the storm throughout western, central and northeast South Dakota, and southeast North Dakota. Snowplow operators in the two states were prepping their equipment, and motorists were making plans for getting to and from their destinations.

"I usually allow for an extra 10 or 15 minutes," Sioux Falls resident Kay Parrott told KELO-TV. "I'm not too concerned with my driving, but everyone else around me. You just have to be really aware of your surroundings."

Grocery stores were a common destination. Justin Luther, manager of a store in Mitchell, S.D., told The Daily Republic newspaper that customers began coming in Monday for staples such as bread, eggs and milk.

"There just becomes a rush, people getting stocked up because they don't want to shop (during the storm)," he said.

The Dakotas had enjoyed a relatively balmy, dry winter until the past couple of weeks.

"We've just been lucky with (storms) going to the north and south of us," Jimmy Taeger, a weather service meteorologist in Bismarck, told The AP.

Fowle joked that this week's storm "knocks the rust off" for meteorologists and serves as a reminder to everyone in the Northern Plains that winter isn't over.

"March is one of our snowiest months in the Dakotas," he said. "People kind of got lulled into a sense of, 'We're not going to get much snow this winter,' and things could definitely change."

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