MAINTENANCE WORKER IN DENVER SNOW
David Zalubowski  /  AP
A maintenance worker spreads salt for commuters arriving by bus in downtown Denver on Monday.
updated 3/20/2006 11:16:56 PM ET 2006-03-21T04:16:56

A powerful storm dumped more than a foot of snow in the Plains, closing schools and roads and forcing residents to man shovels Monday during the first day of spring.

Hundreds of schools were closed in Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and South Dakota, and at least five deaths were blamed on the storm. Spring officially began at 1:26 p.m. EST.

Myron Williams, who raises livestock near Wall, was busy shoveling a foot of snow from gates and feedlots on his property. The rancher said the work was hard but the precipitation was welcome.

“We’re glad to have the moisture,” Williams said. “Nothing’s free, so you’ve got to pay for everything.”

The National Weather Service was still compiling snowfall totals Monday, but parts of South Dakota and Nebraska got up to 18 inches. Northeast Colorado had at least a foot, northwest Kansas had up to 10 inches, and parts of the Oklahoma Panhandle got half a foot.

“We could be looking at over 20 inches by the time this is done,” said Kyle Carstens, a meteorologist with the weather service’s Rapid City office.

Parts of Interstate 80 shut down
Several stretches of Interstate 80 were closed in Nebraska, the State Patrol said. Parts of Interstate 70 were closed in western Kansas, and in Colorado more than 150 miles of the highway were shut down.

In South Dakota, a stretch of about 200 miles of I-90 was reopened Monday. The highway had been closed from Rapid City to Chamberlain because of the heavy snow and tractor-trailers that had gotten stuck.

The storm postponed the final day of the South Dakota Legislature’s 2006 session, and forced Nebraska’s Legislature to cancel its Tuesday meeting.

Also Monday, at least two tornadoes touched down in rural Oklahoma as a wave of thunderstorms moved across the state.

Rain drenches the South
Heavy rain soaked parts of the South over the weekend. Up to 8 inches of rain was reported in northern Texas, causing flooding around the Dallas area. Waters subsided Monday, and the storms may have eased chronic drought.

“It is definitely going to help with the drought, but it is not going to reverse it,” said weather service meteorologist Stacie Hanes.

In Dallas, the body of a woman was recovered from a creek. Officials believe high water swept her car off a road Sunday night.

In Colorado, one person was killed Sunday in a traffic accident on a slush-covered road, the State Patrol said. And authorities said a woman reportedly suffering from Alzheimer’s disease was found dead Monday after she wandered away from her home.

Two motorists died on an icy highway in southwest Nebraska on Sunday, authorities said.

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