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Great Plains digs out of heavy snow, storm debris

  • Chad Hoffman clears snow from the entrance to his apartment building 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. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped at least three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 21 inches, but 31 inches was recorded just a mile southwest of the city. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)

    Chad Hoffman clears snow from the entrance to his apartment building 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. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped at least three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 21 inches, but 31 inches was recorded just a mile southwest of the city. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)

  • Janet Cooley, of Longmont, Colo., wades through a large snow drift in downtown 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. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped at least three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 21 inches, but 31 inches was recorded just a mile southwest of the city. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)

    Janet Cooley, of Longmont, Colo., wades through a large snow drift in downtown 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. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped at least three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 21 inches, but 31 inches was recorded just a mile southwest of the city. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)

  • 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)

  • A house damaged by a tornado, in the background, sits among the damage Friday Oct 4 2013 in Wayne, Neb.  A large wedge tornado is believed to have damaged several buildings in Wayne and the surrounding area. (AP Photo/Dave Weaver)

    A house damaged by a tornado, in the background, sits among the damage Friday Oct 4 2013 in Wayne, Neb. A large wedge tornado is believed to have damaged several buildings in Wayne and the surrounding area. (AP Photo/Dave Weaver)

  • An American flag is ripped in half 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. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped at least three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 21 inches, but 31 inches was recorded just a mile southwest of the city. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)

    An American flag is ripped in half 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. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped at least three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 21 inches, but 31 inches was recorded just a mile southwest of the city. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)

  • Halin Wajaker and Mary Stalberg look at the snow in downtown 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. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped at least three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 21 inches, but 31 inches was recorded just a mile southwest of the city. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)

    Halin Wajaker and Mary Stalberg look at the snow in downtown 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. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped at least three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 21 inches, but 31 inches was recorded just a mile southwest of the city. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)

  • A building is covered in debris in Wayne, Neb., on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013.  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)

    A building is covered in debris in Wayne, Neb., on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013. 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)

  • Several buildings sit damaged Saturday Oct 5 2013 in Wayne, Neb after what witnesses said was tornadoes swept through the southeast corner of Wayne, Neb. A deadly storm system that buried parts of Wyoming and South Dakota in heavy, wet snow also brought powerful thunderstorms packing tornadoes to the Great Plains that caused millions of dollars in damage. 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.  (AP Photo/Dave Weaver)

    Several buildings sit damaged Saturday Oct 5 2013 in Wayne, Neb after what witnesses said was tornadoes swept through the southeast corner of Wayne, Neb. A deadly storm system that buried parts of Wyoming and South Dakota in heavy, wet snow also brought powerful thunderstorms packing tornadoes to the Great Plains that caused millions of dollars in damage. 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. (AP Photo/Dave Weaver)

  • Mick Samuelson looks at the damage to his property 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)

    Mick Samuelson looks at the damage to his property 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)

  • A pickup is abandoned in the middle of St. Joseph Street 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. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped at least three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 21 inches, but 31 inches was recorded just a mile southwest of the city. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)

    A pickup is abandoned in the middle of St. Joseph Street 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. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped at least three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 21 inches, but 31 inches was recorded just a mile southwest of the city. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)

  • David Haile takes video of the snow in downtown 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. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped at least three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 21 inches, but 31 inches was recorded just a mile southwest of the city. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)

    David Haile takes video of the snow in downtown 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. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped at least three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 21 inches, but 31 inches was recorded just a mile southwest of the city. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)

  • Chad Hoffman clears snow from the entrance to his apartment building 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. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped at least three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 21 inches, but 31 inches was recorded just a mile southwest of the city. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)
  • Janet Cooley, of Longmont, Colo., wades through a large snow drift in downtown 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. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped at least three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 21 inches, but 31 inches was recorded just a mile southwest of the city. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)
  • 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)
  • A house damaged by a tornado, in the background, sits among the damage Friday Oct 4 2013 in Wayne, Neb.  A large wedge tornado is believed to have damaged several buildings in Wayne and the surrounding area. (AP Photo/Dave Weaver)
  • An American flag is ripped in half 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. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped at least three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 21 inches, but 31 inches was recorded just a mile southwest of the city. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)
  • Halin Wajaker and Mary Stalberg look at the snow in downtown 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. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped at least three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 21 inches, but 31 inches was recorded just a mile southwest of the city. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)
  • A building is covered in debris in Wayne, Neb., on Saturday, Oct. 5, 2013.  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)
  • Several buildings sit damaged Saturday Oct 5 2013 in Wayne, Neb after what witnesses said was tornadoes swept through the southeast corner of Wayne, Neb. A deadly storm system that buried parts of Wyoming and South Dakota in heavy, wet snow also brought powerful thunderstorms packing tornadoes to the Great Plains that caused millions of dollars in damage. 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.  (AP Photo/Dave Weaver)
  • Mick Samuelson looks at the damage to his property 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)
  • A pickup is abandoned in the middle of St. Joseph Street 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. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped at least three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 21 inches, but 31 inches was recorded just a mile southwest of the city. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)
  • David Haile takes video of the snow in downtown 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. The National Weather Service says the storm dumped at least three and a half feet of wet, heavy snow in the Black Hills. Rapid City had 21 inches, but 31 inches was recorded just a mile southwest of the city. (AP Photo/Rapid City Journal, Chris Huber)

Breaking nearly century-old early autumn snowfall records, a storm system smothered South Dakota’s scenic Black Hills with up to 3½ 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.

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 yesterday. 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, S.D., plow driver Jesse Curnow said yesterday 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 yesterday.

“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 9 inches; it was set Oct. 19, 1919, Carpenter said. Rapid City saw an extra 2½ 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 43½ inches of snow by 7:30 p.m. Friday and more had fallen overnight.

That’s not unheard of in the area, said 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 yesterday, 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 out 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’s 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 tomorrow, 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.”

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