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Powerful storm hits northern Rockies and Plains with winds, heavy snow

Brenda Nolting rolls her cart to her car after stocking up on necessities Friday at a supermarket in Rapid City, S.D.
Brenda Nolting rolls her cart to her car after stocking up on necessities Friday at a supermarket in Rapid City, S.D.Steve McEnroe / AP

A severe early season storm continued to bring heavy snow and strong winds to parts of the northern Rockies to the northern Plains on Saturday, with experts predicting it could be one of the worst storms on record for certain areas.

“This is about as destructive a storm as you can get,” said Jonathan Erdman, a senior meteorologist at the Weather Channel. “It’s not often you get wind gusts up to 70 miles an hour lasting 12 hours or more, plus heavy wet snow of 1 to 2 feet.”

Wet snow was expected to persist in western South Dakota and northwest Nebraska through Saturday, the Weather Channel reported.

“The main threat today is damaging winds and some large hail,” Erdman said.

Wet snow was also expected in parts of central and southwest South Dakota and western and north-central Nebraska. Strong winds could produce weather conditions in eastern Wyoming, western Nebraska and western South Dakota.

Erdman said that the storm was putting “a tremendous toll” on trees and power lines in the Black Hills and surrounding parts of South Dakota as well as parts of Eastern Wyoming. Over 50 inches of snow has already accumulated in the Black Hills.

“We’re looking at what is likely to be one of the top three snow storms on record for parts of South Dakota,” he said.  He added that this could be one of the bigger power outage events the area has faced.

The timing of the storm elevated its potential for damage, Erdman said.

 “That’s what makes October snow storms potentially so dangerous, the trees still have their leaves and the snow that collects on everything,” he said.

The storm should wind down slowly during the day and into Saturday night, Erdman said.

The Great Plains also felt the storm’s impact, with the storm system triggering severe thunderstorms and tornadoes in the area on Friday.

Tornadoes destroyed at least ten buildings in Wayne, Neb., with ten homes near the town also damaged, according to the Associated Press. Mayor Ken Chamberlain of Wayne said at least 15 people were injured, with one person in critical condition. 

A mile-wide tornado was also reported near the town of Cherokee in Iowa. 

“The tornado threat will be much, much lower today,” said Erdman. “We may not see any at all, and certainly nothing to the effect of what we saw last night in Nebraska and Iowa.”

Severe thunderstorm warnings remained in effect from the west Great Lakes down to the Mississippi Valley on Saturday.  

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