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Associated Press, Published April 11 2013

Thousands remain without power in eastern SD

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — South Dakota residents hunkered down for a third day as ice and snow snarled traffic, bowed trees and basically shut down the state Thursday.

Government offices in eastern South Dakota were closed again, and many schools had previously announced Thursday cancellations.

More than 250 electrical poles in the region had been downed by the ice and snowstorm, according to the South Dakota Rural Electric Association. Xcel Energy crews had restored power by late Thursday morning to nearly 48,000 people in eastern and southeastern South Dakota, but another 20,000 remained in the dark, the utility said.

Officials said they expected "significant progress" Thursday and that most customers would have electricity restored by late Friday. Another 2,200 homes and businesses served by rural electric cooperatives remained without power Thursday morning.

"I strongly believe there is some light at the end of this tunnel. However, we've got to make it through this thing," Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether said Thursday afternoon.

Sioux Falls received about half a foot of snow overnight after seeing two days of freezing rain that coated power lines and tree branches with ice. City officials declared a snow alert and said snowplows would be out in force.

The bad weather was forecast to extend into southeastern North Dakota, with up to 10 inches of snow expected by Thursday night. State transportation officials issued a travel alert, urging motorists to use caution because of blowing snow and reduced visibility.

Those without power have been forced to improvise in order to stay warm and entertained.

Chastity Reimer and her 6-year-old daughter, Shila Erickson, made the 15-mile journey from their home near Renner to the mall in Sioux Falls on Thursday morning because they have been without power since 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Reimer, 34, said she bought a generator to keep the refrigerator running, but is frustrated that officials have not given a timetable on when her power will be back up and running.

"Other people that lost it yesterday, it was back up and running," Reimer said as she ate lunch at the food court. The two have been playing lots of board games over the past two days, Reimer said.

Nate Kirkpatrick, 9, was also at the mall eating lunch with his grandfather, 59-year-old Dan Kirkpatrick. Nate said he might build a snowman and go sledding, but he doesn't like the cold weather.

National Weather Service reports showed that snowfall totals in western South Dakota were higher than those in the eastern part of the state — reaching 30 inches in Deadwood. Rapid City had nearly that much, and set snowfall records on two straight days.

Rapid City resident Nancy Smith said drifting snow has been a problem on some roads, but that drivers have been patient.

"I see people trying to help each other if they're stuck or driving very cautiously," she said.

Smith said her daughter, who is in the second grade, is upset at having to take two snow days because it's going to delay summer break.

"But I told her that one year I think we had five snow days that were added on between April and May when I was in school, so it's not unusual," Smith said, adding that a lot of people in the Black Hills are appreciative of the moisture that the snow is providing.

On the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in southwestern South Dakota, tribal leaders are focusing on cleanup and clearing snow drifts so that they can reach some of the most isolated residents. Parts of the reservation received 24 inches of snowfall, according to the National Weather Service.

"The housing clusters are completely snowed in," said tribal spokeswoman Toni Red Cloud.

Red Cloud said the tribe currently has about 15 snowplows working the roads, but some people are worried they could run out of food before everything is cleared away and they are able to leave their homes.

"It's going to be a long process," she added.

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Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.