updated 4/19/2006 3:39:35 PM ET 2006-04-19T19:39:35

Up to 2 feet of blowing snow closed major highways on the northwestern Plains on Wednesday as a powerful storm caused widespread power outages and was blamed for at least three deaths.

More than 2,000 homes and businesses lost power in South Dakota’s Black Hills, and many schools were closed. Some towns in western North Dakota could be without electricity for another day, said the Mountrail-Williams County Electric Cooperative.

The heaviest snowfall was reported in the Black Hills, with 24 inches at Lead and Rochford, the National Weather Service said. Sundance, Wyo., reported 13 inches of snow by midmorning with wind gusting to 60 mph. A foot of snow had fallen at Bowman, in North Dakota’s southwest corner, the weather service said.

“I wish I was in Hawaii,” said Bowman County Sheriff Rory Teigen.

Authorities closed about 100 miles of Interstate 94 during the night from Glendive, Mont., to Dickinson, N.D., but had reopened it by midday Wednesday. A stretch of about 140 miles of I-90 was shut down from Gillette, Wyo., to Rapid City, S.D.

I-90 had icy pavement, zero visibility and trucks blocking parts of the road, said South Dakota Highway Patrol Capt. Greg Ingemunson.

The deaths were in a three-vehicle crash on an icy North Dakota highway amid blowing sleet and snow, state police said. Authorities said a tractor-trailer rig hit a U-Haul truck towing a car head-on, pushing it into a sport utility vehicle that was following the U-Haul.

Wind gusting to 84 mph overturned a mobile home in the Nebraska Panhandle, and gusts to 71 mph were reported in eastern Montana, officials said.

Spring storms with heavy snow aren’t unusual in North Dakota, said weather service meteorologist Jim Fors in Bismarck.

“We don’t get them every year, but every five to 10 years, we usually get a big dump,” Fors said.

Some parts of the region got rain, with 1.76 inches Tuesday at Rhame, N.D., the weather service said.

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