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Associated Press, Published May 08 2010

No power problems yet from May snow

BISMARCK – Several inches of slushy snow accumulated in parts of the Dakotas on Thursday and Friday, but there were no reports of power outages.

North Dakota Emergency Services Department spokeswoman Cecily Fong said snowfall totals were heavy enough in some areas to damage electrical infrastructure but that other necessary conditions were absent.

“We lucked out,” she said. “We were very worried about that, but the good news is the wind died down.”

The weight of heavy snow coupled with strong winds can quickly down power poles and lines.

National Weather Service meteorologist Bill Abeling said the heaviest band of snow appeared to be along the border in southwest North Dakota and northwest South Dakota. The South Dakota town of Ludlow and the North Dakota town of Bowman each had 8 inches. Lesser amounts were reported to the east.

Forecasters had predicted as much as 10 inches for Thursday and early Friday.

“Ground temperatures were warm enough that snow was melting as it hit the ground in most areas,” Abeling said.

Rapid City, S.D., on Thursday set a record for snowfall for the date, but the amount was only 0.4 inches. It broke the record of a trace of snow set in 1978.

The snow was tapering off by Friday afternoon. High temperatures in the 40s and 50s were forecast for today.

“We’re probably done with snow here for a while, but you can never say never in North Dakota,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Rick Kinney.

Both states suffered massive power outages because of storms earlier this year. A storm in North Dakota over the Easter weekend in early April plunged nearly 8,400 households in western and central North Dakota into darkness. Some remained without power for weeks.

A late January ice storm followed by a blizzard cut electricity to more than 20,000 people in the two states and put South Dakota’s impoverished Cheyenne River Indian Reservation into a crisis.

The latest snow fell the same day that officials with Emergency Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency held a briefing in Bismarck for rural electric cooperatives that suffered damage in the Easter-weekend storm. The briefing provided guidance on how to obtain federal aid through a disaster declaration that President Barack Obama issued for 12 counties and the Standing Rock Sioux Indian Reservation late last month.

Rural co-ops also were encouraged to apply for grants so they can bury lines and take other measures “so [during] events like we’ve had both in January and April, these things (power poles and lines) stay up rather than tumbling down,” said Lonnie Hoffer, disaster recovery chief for the Emergency Services Department.

Rob Kelly, manager of engineering services for Mor-Gran-Sou Electric Co-op, which suffered more than $30 million in damage in the April storm, said that co-op was applying for money to bury some lines.

“We hope to go ahead with some of those projects this year,” he said.

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