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WDAY: The News Leader

Published April 11, 2013, 10:17 AM

Thousands remain without power in eastern South Dakota

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Tens of thousands of people remained without electricity in eastern South Dakota early Thursday as a spring storm pounding the state entered its third day.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Tens of thousands of people remained without electricity in eastern South Dakota early Thursday as a spring storm pounding the state entered its third day.

Xcel Energy crews had restored power by late Thursday morning to nearly 48,000 people, but another 20,000 remained in the dark, the utility said. Officials said they expected "significant progress" Thursday and that most customers would have electricity restored by late Friday.

Another 2,200 homes and businesses served by rural electric cooperatives remained in the dark Thursday morning.

Sioux Falls got about half a foot of snow overnight after two days of freezing rain that coated power lines and tree branches with nearly three quarters of an inch of ice. City officials declared a snow alert and said snowplows would be out in force.

The bad weather was forecast to extend into southeastern North Dakota, with up to 10 inches of snow expected by Thursday night. State transportation officials issued a travel alert at mid-day, urging motorists to use caution because of blowing snow and reduced visibility.

Officials said travel was difficult early Thursday in Sioux Falls. U.S. Postal Service spokesman Pete Nowacki told the Argus Leader newspaper that mail delivery in some areas of South Dakota's largest city might be delayed by a day or more.

The possibility of roof collapses was another concern. KVLY-TV reported that a dozen firefighters in North Dakota's largest city, Fargo, were on standby to help their counterparts in Sioux Falls, who had responded to about 300 fire, rescue and assistance calls during the storm.

With all of the downed trees and power lines in Sioux Falls, "It looks like a tornado went through here," Levi Broker, 14, told KELO-TV.

Tree service companies in the area said they were swamped with hundreds of calls.

"The working conditions are just plain miserable," Landon Poppens told the Argus Leader. "Ice-laden limbs are falling on you. The ground is frozen. It's hard to get equipment to certain trees. Roofs are icy. These are extremely bad working conditions."

Working conditions also were poor for electrical linemen. More than 250 electrical poles in the region had been downed by the ice and snow storm, according to the South Dakota Rural Electric Association.

National Weather Service reports showed snowfall totals in western South Dakota from the storm that began Tuesday were even higher than those in the eastern part of the state — reaching 30 inches in Deadwood. Rapid City had nearly that much, and set snowfall records on two straight days.

Lead got more than 26 inches of snow, but resident Brenda McGruder told the Black Hills Pioneer that she didn't mind the conditions.

"I like snow. I always enjoy snow," she said. "It's where I live. It's South Dakota. It's going to snow. I'm thankful for the moisture."

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