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Snow Forces States to Close Roads

South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska also shut down schools.

March 02, 2004|From Associated Press

BELLE FOURCHE, S.D. — Heavy snow blown by wind up to 45 mph closed hundreds of miles of highways Monday in South Dakota, Wyoming, Colorado and Nebraska. Schools and at least one city government were also shut down.

More than a foot of snow had fallen in parts of Wyoming, with 30 inches in the Colorado mountains, and snow drifted onto roads in South Dakota on Monday as fast as plows could clear it.

"It's been snowing since Saturday night," totaling about 15 inches, said Norene Dvorak, a manager at the Mid-America Travel Plaza at Belle Fourche. Drifts stood 5 feet, she said.

The storm was headed northeast, and the National Weather Service issued a storm warning for northeastern North Dakota and northwestern Minnesota.

The South Dakota Highway Patrol closed 110 miles of Interstate 90 from Wall to the Wyoming state line because of drifting snow, making visibility zero in some places.

The highway was reopened Monday afternoon.

"We're pretty full here with truckers," said Debbie Olney, a cashier at the Badlands Travel Stop along I-90 at Kadoka, S.D. "It's snowing and blowing, and we've got drifts."

Truck driver Marvin Huether of Granite City, Ill., spent the night at the Wall Auto Livery at Wall, S.D.

"Visibility at times got down to almost nothing," Huether said. "You get to where you can't see the white lines on the highway, it's time to get off the roads."

Western Nebraska had 8 to 10 inches of snow, and a 100-mile stretch of Interstate 80 was closed from Big Springs to the Wyoming state line, along with other highways in the Panhandle and southwestern Nebraska.

Mail service was suspended at Chadron, Neb., which got about 11 inches of snow, and the Dawes County Courthouse was closed.

Rapid City, S.D., Mayor Jim Shaw closed most city offices and police said cars were stuck in the middle of streets.

Stretches of I-80 and I-25 also were closed overnight in eastern Wyoming, but they were reopened by noon Monday.

About 15 inches of snow fell in central Wyoming, while nearly 30 inches fell at Coal Bank Pass in the San Juan Mountains of southern Colorado.

Major roads also were closed in northeastern Colorado, stranding hundreds of motorists at motels and truck stops.

Two churches, in Limon and Hugo, and a school in Agate opened to shelter travelers.

"We slept two to a pew last night. Some of our guys slept on our bus," said Kathy Koehn, one of about 40 people from Quinter, Kan., who spent the night at the First Baptist Church in Limon, 86 miles southeast of Denver.

Colorado and Kansas police closed about 200 miles of Interstate 70 from the Denver metropolitan area to Colby, Kan., as motels along the route filled with snowbound travelers.

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