Rescue workers searched the Rockies and the Plains states yesterday for bodies in the aftermath of a Blizzard that buried much of the region in two feet of snow, whipped up 20-foot drifts and killed at least 15 persons.
While residents of four states dug their way out of the biggest snowstorm of the winter, new warnings for heavy snow were posted for the Montana Rockies.
Federal officials, meanwhile, warned that the lack of snow in the drought-stricken West Coast mountains "almost assures the lowest water supplies in recorded history this summer" for parts of the region.
Officials in drought-afflicted St. Joseph, Mo., invited a rainmaker to town. But in Iowa, welcome showers gave residents spring fever, and it rained so hard in southeastern New York that a flash flood watch was in effect.
South Dakota authorities reported the state's first fatality of the late winter storm. Seven fatalities were reported in Colorado, six Nebraska and one in Kansas.
Thousands of northwest Kansas homes were without power, while emergency crews struggled to open snow-clogged highways and transport workers so they could repair downed power lines. A Great Plains Electric Coop spokesman said ice, snow and winds gusting to 100 miles per hour early Saturday drowned as many as 1,500 power poles.
Nebraska Gov. J. James Exon and a contigent of state officials toured the hardest hit areas of the state by air in an effort to see what relief was needed.
Ron Bogus, a Nebraska public power district spokesman, estimated damages to power equipment at $2 million. State agriculture officials feared large livestock losses and severe damage from wind and erosion.
An Amtrak passenger train, snowbound for three days in McCook, Neb., with 100 passengers aboard made its way to Denver yesterday without incident. The train left Chicago Thursday bound for San Francisco.
Dozens of motorists holed up since Friday at an Interstate 90 truck stop in Kadoka, S.D., shoveled out their cars and began to make their way out of the town.
There was one redeeming value to the snow - it may help regions hurt by the long winter drought. Glen Kreuscher, Nebraska agricultural director, said the moisture would help the drought-stricken winter wheat crop "if the plants haven't blown out of the soil."
In St. Joseph, the Mid-States Ag Boosters announced they have invited rainmaker Irving Krick to begin a five-year cloud seeding project in May.
The federal government's grim warning of West Coast water shortages came in a report issued by the Commerce Department yesterday.
The department surveyed the snowpack, the accumulation of snow in the mountains that provides water, for the arid West during the spring melt.
In California's Sierra Mountains, the department said, the snowpack is equivalent to five to eight inches of water, most of which will soak into the soil. Very little will run off into streams and reservoirs, it said.
Hydrologists predict the streamflow in the Sacramento and Northern California coastal drainage basins will average 74 per cent below normal, while in the San Joaquin basins the stream flows will range from 72 to 94 per cent below average.
The flow of water is expected to average from 40 per cent to 60 per cent below normal in coastal rivers in Oregon and Washington.
Wet weather in late February provided some relief for the Cloumbia River basin, but hydrologists say it was insufficient to change the long-range outlook, which calls for a record low stream flow this summer.
The department noted the snowpack in the region averaged 60 per cent below normal.