October 6, 2005

Record early snowstorm hits North Dakota

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The earliest major snowstorm on record
in North Dakota left scores of travelers stranded in shelters
and blocked highways in parts of the Midwestern state on
Thursday, officials said.

"Even by North Dakota standards this was a large storm,"
said Rob Keller, public information officer for the state
National Guard in the capital Bismarck, where temperatures were
below freezing on Thursday after hitting 90 degrees (32 C) last

No injuries or deaths were reported, and two people
reported missing were found, Keller said.

The storm, which struck on Wednesday and continued through
the night in western and central North Dakota, dumped more than
20 inches of snow in some areas.

Interstate 94, a major transcontinental highway, was
completely to partially blocked from Bismarck west to the
Montana state line and residents were warned against traveling
in 23 counties.

The North Dakota Division of Homeland Security said weather
experts were calling the storm "the earliest significant
snowstorm on record" in the state. Snowfall records go back to
the late 19th century.

There were widespread power outages but electricity was
gradually being restored on Thursday, the agency said.

The National Guard deployed eight-wheel-drive vehicles,
buses and other equipment to help rescue motorists caught by
the storm and take them to shelters. As many as 200 motorists
and truck drivers may have been stranded, officials said.

One stretch of highway south of Minot was littered with
jack-knifed trailer trucks.

Annual snowfall in North Dakota ranges from less than 26
inches in some parts to about 38 inches in a belt extending
diagonally from the northeast corner to the southwest, the U.S.
Geological Survey says.