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Associated Press , Published April 10 2013

Eastern SD preps for 2nd wave of spring storm; tens of thousands without power

DIRK LAMMERS,Associated Press

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Tens of thousands of residents in eastern South Dakota remained without power Wednesday as they hunkered down for the second wave of a record-setting winter storm that already downed power lines, snapped large trees and closed roads, schools and businesses.

"This is going to get worse before it gets better," Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether said.

Freezing drizzle continued to fall on mature tree branches already stretched to the ground by nearly three-quarters of an inch of ice. The drizzle was expected to give way Wednesday night to 6 to 12 inches of snow accompanied by winds of 15 to 25 miles per hour, said Philip Schumacher, a National Weather Service meteorologist.

"There may be more issues with branches coming down and such," Schumacher said.

Except for the Emergency Operations Center and other essential services, state government offices closed statewide at noon Wednesday.

Interstate 90 reopened Wednesday between Rapid City and Wall and between Mitchell and Sioux Falls, but a 220-mile stretch between Wall and Mitchell remained closed. Interstate 29 just south of Sioux Falls between the I-229 interchange and the Tea exit was closed Wednesday morning because of downed power lines.

Col. Craig Price, superintendent of the South Dakota Highway Patrol, said Wednesday morning that officers had responded to 52 traffic accidents in the past 24 hours, and 12 of them involved injuries.

"Overall traffic is relatively light across the state," Price said. "People are really using their best common sense when traveling. I think most people are staying put if they can."

Downtown Sioux Falls sat quiet Wednesday as many stores had signs in the windows saying they were closed due to the weather.

But Young and Richard's Flower Shop was ready for customers, as the morning commute for Cindy Palleschi and her husband, Jerry, involves just a walk downstairs.

The couple, who live on the second floor of the Main Avenue building, decided to open for the day even though many of their designers and workers were unable to get there.

"None of our people are making it," Cindy Palleschi said. "It's no good. It's just terrible."

Jerry Palleschi said he was up at 5 a.m. Wednesday to clear the thick snow from the sidewalk, though he noticed few people were walking downtown.

Mayor Huether called the ice storm an unprecedented event for Sioux Falls and said it would take months to fully recover. He estimated the storm would cost Sioux Falls "hundreds of thousands of dollars" but said the city is financially strong and can handle it.

Huether warned residents that they'd likely wake up to more downed branches and darkness.

"There is a solid chance that you might lose your power tonight," he said.

Some 35,000 homes and businesses remained without electricity in the greater Sioux Falls area at noon Wednesday, Xcel Energy spokesman Jim Wilcox said.

The power company called in additional crews from North Dakota and Minnesota to work to restore service Wednesday and was bringing in additional help from Nebraska and Missouri. Wilcox said Xcel should have more than 320 workers on the ground by Thursday.

Storm warnings remained in place for most of South Dakota.

The National Weather Service said 20 inches of snow fell in Rapid City on Tuesday — the city's snowiest day of all time. Other records set Tuesday included 1.42 inches of precipitation in Sioux Falls, which broke the city's previous record for that date: 0.59 inches set in 1925.

The weather service said the bad weather could extend into southeastern North Dakota. The forecast called for up to a foot of snow in that region Thursday, and the weather service issued a winter storm watch. On Monday, southwestern North Dakota saw heavy snow, but the state escaped the brunt of the storm Tuesday.

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.