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North, South Dakota hammered by 1st snowstorm of season

| Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, 10:51 p.m.
Postal carrier Charlotte Harding makes her way along Avenue C West in Bismarck, N.D., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, during the second day of a winter storm in central North Dakota. 'It's not too cold but the snow is just thick,' Harding said.
Postal carrier Charlotte Harding makes her way along Avenue C West in Bismarck, N.D., Tuesday, Nov. 29, 2016, during the second day of a winter storm in central North Dakota. 'It's not too cold but the snow is just thick,' Harding said.

The first widespread winter storm to sweep the Dakotas this season unleashed heavy snow and howling winds from the Black Hills to Bismarck on Tuesday, creating whiteout conditions and forcing the closure of a stretch of Interstate 90.

The late-November storm caps an unusually warm and mild weather month in most of North and South Dakota, two states in the upper Midwest that normally see multiple snowfalls by Thanksgiving Day, according to National Weather Service meteorologists.

An earlier storm struck a corner of the eastern Dakotas and western Minnesota nearly two weeks ago, but that system was less powerful and smaller in scale than Tuesday's blast of snow and gale-force wind.

“This storm is hitting western and central North Dakota hard with snow,” with accumulations ranging from 10 to 20 inches across the entire region, said NWS meteorologist Janine Vining in Bismarck, the state capital.

No-travel advisories were posted for wide sections of North and South Dakota, state officials said.

Meanwhile, remote sensors measured nearly 2 feet of snowfall in some parts of the Black Hills in South Dakota, according to NWS meteorologist Jeff Johnson in Rapid City.

Among areas hardest hit was a swath of southwestern South Dakota around the Black Hills, where severe blizzard conditions prompted authorities to close a 45-mile stretch of I-90 between the town of Spearfish and Rapid City, the state's second-largest urban area. The highway later was reopened between Rapid City and Piedmont.

Near-zero visibility, drifting snow and icy road surfaces led to numerous jackknifed tractor-trailers and vehicle crashes, one of them involving a hazardous materials spill, said Kristi Sandal, a South Dakota state transportation department spokeswoman.

“It becomes a domino effect,” she said. “It's better to close down the road.”

No serious injuries were reported, but conditions grew so dire that snowplow operations were suspended in some places.

Sustained wind gusts of 30 to 40 mph were common across the region, with gusts of 50 to 60 mph, according to the NWS. Wind-chill values were expected to plunge into the teens to 10 degrees below zero.

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