by Bill Chappell, NPR
Heavy snowfall and low visibility have combined to cause crashes and shut down roads. As of Saturday morning, blizzard conditions were still being reported near Badlands National Park.
“National Weather Service meteorologist Eric Helgeson says the system dumped 33 inches of wet, heavy snow five miles south-southwest of Lead by Friday afternoon,” the Rapid City Journal reports, describing an area in the Black Hills.
When the storm began to hit, nearly 9,000 people reported losing power, the newspaper reports. Many of those have since had electricity restored.
Many of the area’s highways and the interstate were closed early Friday, and state troopers performed sweeps of the roads to make sure people weren’t stranded. The conditions caused severe problems for motorists in Wyoming and South Dakota.
“Troopers have been going from one crash to the next,” Wyoming State Patrol Sgt. Stephen Townsend says. “As soon as we get the road cleared and get it open, it seems like it’s open for a very short time, and then we get a tangle of cars and a pileup, which closes the highway once again.”
Ahead of the snowfall, the system brought thunderstorms and sparked tornadoes.
“Wayne, Neb., saw some of the greatest damage from tornadoes where at least four homes were destroyed in the town of 9,600,” the AP reports.
As of Saturday morning, blizzard conditions were still being reported near Badlands National Park. That’s according to the National Weather Service’s office in Rapid City, S.D., where officials say 19 inches of snow fell east of the city Friday — a new record.
The weather service, which is operating despite a federal shutdown that has closed other agencies, reports a risk of severe thunderstorms Saturday as the storm system continues to move eastward, affecting a swath of the U.S. from Wisconsin down to northern Arkansas.