SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - A storm system barreled across the Plains states on the last day of winter, dumping more than a foot of snow that stalled highway travelers Monday in South Dakota and Nebraska and causing flooding in Texas.
Hundreds of schools were closed Monday in Nebraska, Kansas, Colorado and South Dakota, and at least two deaths were blamed on the storm. Six-foot snowdrifts were reported in western South Dakota.
Spring officially begins Monday at 1:26 p.m. EST.
"The roads are terrible, just terrible," said Shirley Tomac, 49, of Elizabeth, Colo., about 25 miles southeast of Denver. Her 5-mile drive to work took about twice as long as usual Monday.
The storm also stymied lawmakers. Monday was scheduled as the final day of the South Dakota Legislature's 2006 session in Pierre, but it had to be postponed to Tuesday, said Senate Republican Leader Eric Bogue.
A stretch of about 200 miles of Interstate 90 was closed Monday across South Dakota from Rapid City to Chamberlain because of the heavy snow and stuck trailer-trailer rigs. It had been shut down since Sunday afternoon.
Brigitte Buck and her husband were trying to drive home on I-90 to Rapid City but had to wait out the storm at the town of Oacoma, across the Missouri River from Chamberlain.
"We knew it was coming," Buck said. "We were just hoping it wouldn't be this bad."
Every motel room was taken in Wall, between Chamberlain and Rapid City, with many of them full of players and fans who were returning home from a high school basketball tournament in Rapid City.
Nearly 70 people spent the night at the Wall Community Center, said director Carla Seybold. "We have some Red Cross cots and we have some sports mats, and a few people are just sleeping on the carpet," Seybold said Monday.
About a 50-mile section of westbound I-80 was closed in western Nebraska, the State Patrol said.
Up to 18 inches of snow was reported in South Dakota, with 13 in Nebraska and 11 in eastern Colorado.
Stiff wind piled the snow in 6-foot drifts in northwestern South Dakota, said weather service meteorologist Kyle Carstens. Accumulations could be more than 20 inches by the time the storm ends, he said.
All of Colorado's major highways and Denver International Airport were open Monday, but on Sunday two passenger trains were stalled for hours in the mountains after a separate rail maintenance vehicle derailed because of the storm.
The Ski Train, which runs between Denver and the Winter Park resort, was stuck for about five hours with some 700 aboard.
"Having to sit on a train that wasn't moving wasn't what we wanted," said Erin Flanagan, who lugged ski gear and shepherded her two children, ages 6 and 8, off the Ski Train after it finally arrived in Denver.
Farther south, heavy rain during the weekend soaked parts of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Louisiana.
Up to 8 inches of rain was reported in North Texas, causing weekend flooding around the Dallas area. That eased what has been classified as a "severe" drought in the region, but the National Weather Service said the Dallas-Fort Worth area is still 11.5 inches below normal.
"There are houses that have water coming in them, and there are cars that are submerged" across the Dallas-Fort Worth area, said National Weather Service meteorologist Ted Ryan. He said the storms were expected to continue Monday.
About 300 miles northwest of the Dallas area, northern parts of the Texas Panhandle ravaged by deadly wildfires last week were under a winter storm warning with up to 8 inches of snow possible.
The body of a woman was recovered from a Dallas creek, police Senior Cpl. Max Geron said. Officials believed high water swept her car off a road. In Colorado, one person was killed in a traffic accident on a slush-covered road, the State Patrol said.