One of the biggest snowstorms to hit the northern Plains this winter dumped more than a foot of snow on parts of South Dakota and Minnesota, stranding travelers and closing hundreds of schools.
Freezing rain knocked out power to homes across northern Iowa, southern Minnesota and northwest Wisconsin, and hundreds of traffic accidents were reported, including two deaths when a taxi slid into a tractor-trailer near Minneapolis.
In western Wisconsin, authorities were searching for a single-engine plane Friday that disappeared about 2 a.m. The pilot, believed to be only person on board, reported icing just before air traffic controllers lost contact with the plane.
About 200 travelers spent the night on cots at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport after some 300 flights were canceled there Thursday. Children in nearly 350 school districts in southern Minnesota and western Wisconsin got the day off after classes were canceled.
``We're catching up for lost time this winter,'' said Bob Weisman, a meteorologist at Minnesota's St. Cloud State University, where 14 inches of snow fell and there were still flurries Friday morning.
Snow was still falling Friday in parts of Wisconsin, but the skies were expected to clear by evening.
To the west, the storm left as much as 2 feet of slushy snow in Wyoming, a welcome sight to ranchers and farmers who have seen an abnormally dry winter.
Freezing rain in Nebraska and South Dakota was followed by heavy snow and high winds Wednesday and Thursday that made roadways dangerous. Eighteen inches of snow fell in the LaCreek National Wildlife Refuge, and 14 inches fell at Mitchell, S.D., before the storm moved out of the state.
On the region's farms, many cattle are having their young about this time of year, and the harsh weather will affect calving, said Julie Williams, a veterinarian with Mid-River Veterinary Clinic in Chamberlain, S.D.
Minnesota had been basking in balmy weather for most of the winter. Snowmobile and ice-fishing contests had been postponed or delayed across the state, and ice sculptures quickly melted at the St. Paul Winter Carnival in late January.
For some people, the storm was a reminder of winter usually looks like.
Adreanne Johnson, 22, left early Thursday night from her tax-help booth at a Minneapolis grocery store only to find she left the headlights on in her car and killed her battery.
``I'm a Minnesotan; I'm used to it,'' Johnson said. ``But I wish it had stayed away.''