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Storm Drops 20 Inches of Snow on Plains

March 04, 1985|From Times Wire Services

A wind-whipped winter storm Sunday brought up to 20 inches of snow to the northern Plains, piling up "rooftop level" drifts that blocked highways.

Travelers' advisories were posted from Utah to Wisconsin as the weather system moved east across Montana, the Dakotas and Minnesota, dropping more than a foot of snow in less than 24 hours.

Eight-foot drifts were reported in North Dakota and Montana.

Storm Moving East

The National Weather Service warned that the snow and strong winds, which originated in the Rockies on Friday, were expected to move into Kansas, Nebraska, Iowa and Michigan by today.

Gusts of up to 50 m.p.h. made driving hazardous as far south as southern New Mexico and western Texas.

In South Dakota, 18 inches at Huron, 17 inches at Faulkton and 12 inches at Faith were reported by Sunday afternoon, with more snow forecast. Gov. William J. Janklow urged motorists statewide to "get off the road and stay off the road."

Janklow closed 180 miles of Interstate 90, South Dakota's major east-west route, between Mitchell and Kadoka because of poor visibility and drifting snow. Anyone attempting to drive on the closed portion of the icy highway would be subject to arrest, he said.

Vehicles Banned

State Department of Transportation plow crews and sanding trucks were also ordered off the highway until conditions improve.

In southwestern North Dakota, foot-deep snow made driving slow going at best.

"If you've got a four-wheel drive, you can make it, but otherwise you can't," Adams County Sheriff's Deputy Jim Dohman said. "There's some (drifts) up to rooftop level--the highest I've seen was about eight feet."

The Minnesota Department of Transportation said an 11-mile section of U.S. 169 was barricaded between St. Peter and Mankato, where 11 inches of snow had fallen. About 150 stranded motorists sought shelter in a National Guard Armory in St. Peter.

Airport Landings Stopped

Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport remained officially open, but planes were not allowed to land on the snowy runways.

High winds accompanied the storm into Colorado, which got up to three inches of snow an hour in the foothills. Forecasters predicted as much as 18 inches of new snow for the Colorado mountains by today. Seven inches of snow fell in Aspen and three inches of snow fell in Boulder in an hour.

Several multicar accidents occurred on Interstate 70 west of Denver, with heavy traffic and cars sliding off roads in the Mount Vernon Canyon area. A 20- to 30-vehicle pileup was reported on Interstate 70 near Idaho Springs, Officer Fay Thurlow of the Colorado State Patrol said.

Flights in and out of Denver's Stapleton International Airport were reduced by half because of poor visibility.

Utah Resort Shuts Down

Twenty inches of new snow fell on the Powder Mountain ski resort in Utah.

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