October 6, 2013

Records fall as Black Hills turn white

The cold front also spawns nine tornadoes in Nebraska and Iowa.

By Chet Brokaw
Associated Press

PIERRE, S.D. – Breaking nearly century-old early autumn snowfall records, a storm system smothered South Dakota’s scenic Black Hills with up to 3.5 feet of wet, heavy snow.

click image to enlarge

Zack Ruml, 20, of Rapid City, S.D, lifts a heavy crab apple tree branch off of his 1998 Pontiac Gran Prix on Friday. The branch smashed the rear window and dented the trunk of the car. Trees in the city are still fully leaved and the heavy snow is breaking trees throughout the city. Blizzards rolled into parts of Wyoming and South Dakota on Friday, bringing the snow-savvy states to an unseasonably early winter standstill.

The Associated Press

But wintry weather wasn’t the only thing delivered by the powerful cold front that crossed the Great Plains, as unusually strong thunderstorms brought heavy rain, hail and as many as nine tornadoes to Nebraska and Iowa. Fifteen people in northeast Nebraska were injured in a tornado Friday and three died in a car accident on a snow-slicked road.

Forecasters said the front would eventually combine with other storms to make for a wild – and probably very wet – weekend for much of the central U.S. and Southeast.

Power outages and impassable roads plagued western South Dakota on Saturday. More than 25,000 people had lost power in the Black Hills area, and authorities were recruiting snowmobilers to help rescue about 80 motorists who’d been stuck overnight.

Rapid City plow driver Jesse Curnow said Saturday morning things weren’t moving so smoothly in chest-high drifts after a record 21-inch snowfall. He couldn’t get out of the business’ parking lot.

“I’m trapped. I can kind of move, but only a little bit,” Curnow said.

Also stuck were four employees of the National Weather Service’s Rapid City office. They’d been there since Friday, meteorologist David Carpenter said Saturday.

Friday’s snowfall – 19 inches – broke the previous one-day snowfall record for October by about nine inches; it was set on Oct. 19, 1919, Carpenter said. Friday also surpassed the record for the entire month, 15.1 inches, also set in 1919.

Lead, S.D., received 43.5 inches.

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