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Associated Press, Published April 17 2013

Another spring snowstorm socks parts of the Dakotas

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Another record-breaking snowstorm crossed parts of the Dakotas on Wednesday, even as cleanup continued from two previous storms in the past week that caused widespread problems.

The newest system dropped 3.4 inches of snow at the Rapid City airport Tuesday, surpassing the city record for the date of 3.3 inches, set in 1960, according to the National Weather Service. The storm on Wednesday extended from western South Dakota into the central and northern areas of the state and into southeastern North Dakota.

Forecasters said the storm could drop as much as 15 inches of snow in western South Dakota by Thursday and lesser but still-significant amounts farther east. Many schools in the Rapid City area closed or started late Wednesday.

“It looks like this storm is coming in just about like the last one,” Assistant Superintendent Katie Bray told the Rapid City Journal. “We’ve already had a bus stuck, and others have been dealing with ice issues.”

Slick road conditions were reported in various parts of the two states Wednesday. Weather advisories, watches and warnings were in place throughout South Dakota.

The newest storm came on the heels of a weekend storm that dropped an all-time single-day record 17.3 inches of snow on Bismarck, N.D. Snow removal in that city and in Dickinson, which got about 16 inches, continued into Wednesday.

An inflated domed sports facility in Bismarck is closed likely until next week while officials repair damage from the storm. Snow that piled up on one side of the dome caused the tarplike material on that side to deflate earlier this week, Fore Seasons Center clerk Jordan Buechler told The Associated Press. The wall collapse damaged some golf and soccer equipment inside, which punctured the fabric.

The partial collapse happened at night and no one was hurt, Buechler said. A damage estimate was not immediately available Wednesday.

The dome is at a private golf course but is operated by the city’s Parks and Recreation Department. It is inflated by air pressure and has a driving range, soccer areas and batting cages.

It was not the worst weather disaster for the facility – the entire dome blew away in a windstorm a couple of years ago, Buechler said.

With highs across the state forecast only in the 30s on Wednesday, North Dakota’s largest city of Fargo was sure to set a record for the longest into a year without a 50-degree day. The record was April 17, 1881, according to the weather service.

A three-day storm in South Dakota last week dropped up to 2½ feet of snow in the west – including 20 inches in Rapid City on April 9, the city’s snowiest day of all time – and brought freezing rain to the east, cutting electricity to nearly 100,000 people. Power was restored by end of the weekend, but the ice also downed or damaged thousands of trees and cleanup has extended into this week.

Sioux Falls officials on Tuesday afternoon unveiled a cleanup plan dubbed Operation Timber Strike, to clean up the mess over an area spanning more than 70 square miles.

“We’ve got strike teams out there that are government employees. We’ve got private contractors and very soon we’ll have volunteers and stewards as well,” Mayor Mike Huether said.

The South Dakota State University Extension Service and the state Agriculture Department held a public workshop in Sioux Falls on Tuesday on dealing with damaged trees and shrubs and plan more in the future.

For some residents of the Dakotas who were hit by both previous storms, the prospect of a third was a bit depressing.

Caleb Huettl lives in Aberdeen in northern South Dakota, which got more than a half foot of snow during the first storm and close to a foot during the second one.

“I’m not very excited about the third coming on the way,” Huettl told the American News. “I’ve had to dig my car out twice and got my car stuck at my job one time, had to walk home.”