UPDATE: Thousands in dark as icy weather hits DakotasPIERRE, S.D. (AP) — Thousands of people were without power Saturday after icy weather toppled miles of power lines in the 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 snow 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 about 10,000 customers without power Saturday afternoon, down from 12,500 earlier in the day.
Fifteen of the state's 28 electric cooperatives were reporting outages, with 6,000 power poles brought down by ice, the association said.
Association general manager Ed Anderson said it could be midweek or later before power is restored to all areas. Wind gusts, forecast to exceed 50 mph in some parts of the state, could hamper those efforts.
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 setting up six large power generators at the reservation in hopes of restoring water service by day's end.
Thirteen shelters, including two mobile shelters, have been opened statewide.
The heavy ice also toppled several communications towers in South Dakota, including part of the KPLO television tower perched atop a prominent butte near Reliance. The top 300 feet of the massive tower collapsed and fell onto a nearby power line.
North Dakota also had widespread power outages. National Guard spokesman Bill Prokopyk said outages were reported Saturday in 18 counties scattered throughout the state, but he didn't know exactly how many people were affected.
Gov. John Hoeven's office said residents in southwestern, south-central and extreme southeastern North Dakota were hardest hit. Local officials were readying shelters to assist those without heat.
Utilities were assessing the damage Saturday and trying to determine how many outages there were, Hoeven's office said. Icy roads were hindering repair crews, and there was no estimate for when their work would be complete.
If the weather allowed, the Guard planned to use a helicopter to find downed lines in Morton, Grant and Sioux counties.
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.
Dravland said Saturday afternoon that no major traffic problems had been reported across South Dakota.
Governors of both states have declared statewide emergencies to deal with the storm.