BISMARCK, N.D. - Roads reopened and the lights came back on for thousands of customers Thursday as the northern Plains recovered from a storm that blasted in from the Rockies.
Travelers were trapped as the snowfall reached as high as 24 inches in a band stretching across North Dakota, from Dickinson in the southwest to Langdon in the northeast. Winds gusted to 50 mph in Minot.
The National Weather Service said the wintry weather was among the earliest on record in the state.
Interstate 94, the state's main east-west artery, was reopened west of Bismarck at midmorning, but authorities warned that many other roads remained coated in ice.
National Guard soldiers worked with state troopers and other workers to rescue stranded motorists using snow plows, buses, heavy trucks and bulldozers, along with a piece of utility equipment that runs on tank-like tracks. No injuries were reported.
About 60 bus passengers who had been stuck for hours got hot meals, free T-shirts and cots in the Dickinson State University student union, courtesy of student volunteers.
William Jordan, of Conway, N.C., said he was grateful for the help but added, "This place, North Dakota, is terrible, man. It's cold."
At least 11,000 customers lost electricity, but most had it back by Thursday morning.
The Red Cross opened a shelter in Minot, the first time it had done so there because of weather, said Allan McGeough, the city chapter's executive director.
Crews trying to clean up fallen trees in Minot were hampered by snow and ice. "A lot of the stuff is frozen to the ground," said Alan Walter, the city's public works director.
A lineman for an electric cooperative was reported missing for hours after he ventured out on a snowmobile to check on a power outage. He was found at a farm and "he's fine," said Janice Koeser, an assistant at McKenzie County Electric Cooperative in Watford City. The cooperative had no more details, she said.
The storm came just a few days after North Dakota had temperatures in the 90s. Warmer weather was forecast to return in the coming days.