Season greeting: Fall snowstorm pushing through Great Plains

Associated Press

Rapid City, S.D. – A powerful winterlike storm moving through the Great Plains was closing schools and causing travel headaches in several states, authorities said Thursday.

Winter storm warnings and watches stretched from Wyoming and Montana through western Nebraska and into the Dakotas and Minnesota. Forecasters said the storm packs strong winds and double-digit snowfall totals, along with blizzardlike conditions through Friday.

Pedestrians make their way along a snow-covered street lined with trees that still have their leaves during a fall snowstorm in Helena, Montana, on Sunday, Sept. 29, 2019. Strong winds and heavy snow caused power outages and temporary road closures in northwestern Montana as a wintry storm threatened to drop several feet of snow in some areas of the northern Rocky Mountains.

Blowing and drifting snow were making travel hazardous, with wind gusts approaching 40 mph in some areas.

The National Weather Service in Bismarck, North Dakota, said a “potentially historic October winter storm” was in the making.

Dozens of school districts canceled classes or started late in South Dakota and western Nebraska, including Chadron State College in Chadron, Nebraska.

People were shoveling snow instead of raking fall leaves in some communities.

“The ground is warm underneath, so soon as you scoop it the sidewalks are clear,” said Drew Petersen, who owns a drugstore in Chadron, where more than 5 inches have fallen so far.

His out-of-town employees made it to work, he said, but they reported that the roads are snow-covered and slushy.

Forecasters predicted a foot of snow or more for parts of the Dakotas through Friday and nearly a foot in Nebraska.

The storm has dropped 8 inches of snow on the west side of Rapid City, South Dakota, National Weather Service meteorologist Dave Hintz said. More was expected before ending Thursday afternoon as the storm heads northeast, Hintz said.

Winter storms arriving just three weeks into fall aren’t unusual, but they can blow into howling blizzards. Hintz recalled an October 2013 storm in which hundreds of cattle perished. Snow reached 55 inches deep in the South Dakota community of Lead.

The storm left 32,000 customers without power in Washington state Wednesday.