March 21, 2006 in Nation/World

First day of spring brings heavy snow to Plains

Dirk Lammers Associated Press
Associated Press photo

Custer State Park employee Tom Miklos digs his snowplow out of a drift at an entrance to the park in the Black Hills of South Dakota on Monday. The state received as much as 18 inches of snow.
(Full-size photo)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – A powerful storm dumped more than a foot of snow in the Plains, closing schools and roads and forcing residents to man shovels Monday on the first day of spring.

Hundreds of schools were closed in Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and South Dakota, and at least four deaths were blamed on the storm. Spring officially began at 10:26 a.m. PST.

Myron Williams, who raises livestock near Wall, S.D., was busy shoveling a foot of snow from gates and feedlots on his property. The rancher said the work was hard but the precipitation was welcome.

“We’re glad to have the moisture,” Williams said. “Nothing’s free, so you’ve got to pay for everything.”

The National Weather Service was still compiling snowfall totals Monday, but South Dakota got up to 18 inches. Parts of Nebraska had 15 inches, northeast Colorado had at least a foot, and northwest Kansas had up to 10 inches.

“We could be looking at over 20 inches by the time this is done,” said Kyle Carstens, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Rapid City office.

Several stretches of Interstate 80 were closed in Nebraska, the State Patrol said. Parts of Interstate 70 were closed in western Kansas, and in Colorado more than 150 miles of the highway were shut down.

In South Dakota, a stretch of about 200 miles of Interstate 90 was reopened Monday. The highway had been closed from Rapid City to Chamberlain because of the heavy snow and tractor-trailers that had gotten stuck.

The storm postponed the final day of the South Dakota Legislature’s 2006 session and forced Nebraska’s Legislature to cancel its meeting today.

Farther south, heavy rain during the weekend soaked parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.

Up to 8 inches of rain was reported in northern Texas, causing weekend flooding around the Dallas area. Water subsided Monday, and the storms may have eased chronic drought in the area.

“It is definitely going to help with the drought, but it is not going to reverse it,” said weather service meteorologist Stacie Hanes.

In Dallas, the body of a woman was recovered from a creek. Officials believe high water swept her car off a road Sunday night.

In Colorado, one person was killed Sunday in a traffic accident on a slush-covered road, the State Patrol said. Two motorists died on an icy highway in southwest Nebraska on Sunday, authorities said.

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