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Associated Press, Published January 23 2010

Thousands in dark as icy weather hits Dakotas

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Thousands of people were without power Saturday after icy weather toppled miles of power lines in the Dakotas.

Blizzard-like conditions were expected to develop over the weekend and into Monday from the winter storm that first hit the region Tuesday. Freezing rain and show have created icy conditions that brought down power lines and thwarted efforts to fix them.

"We have a widespread power problem," South Dakota Public Safety Secretary Tom Dravland said Saturday.

The South Dakota Rural Electric Association reported 11,500 customers were without power at 10 a.m. Saturday, down from 12,500 earlier in the morning.

Fifteen of the state's 28 electric cooperatives were reporting outages, with 6,000 power poles brought down by ice, the association said.

The Cheyenne River Indian Reservation in north-central South Dakota was among the hardest-hit areas, Dravland said. The reservation was without water Saturday after power outages left the water-intake system inoperable. The state was sending large power generators to the reservation and other communities with similar problems.

Shelters have been opened statewide. Kristi Turman of the South Dakota Emergency Management Office said about 50 people have sought refuge.

In North Dakota, Huron-based Dakota Energy reported 725 customers without power and 28 miles of downed lines.

Travel had been restricted on several major highways in North Dakota, but the closures were lifted Saturday morning.

Governors of both states have declared statewide emergencies to deal with the storm.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.