Winter storm weakens but thousands still without power

Chad Gion, left, and Zach Wilson begin the process of digging a vehicle out in southeast Mandan, N.D., Monday, Dec. 26, 2016. The combination of freezing rain, snow and high winds that forced vast stretches of highways in the Dakotas to be shut down Sunday continued into Monday, and authorities issued no-travel warnings for much of North Dakota. (Tom Stromme/The Bismarck Tribune via AP)

CHICAGO (AP) — The furious winter storm that swept into the northern Great Plains on Christmas Day weakened Tuesday, but thousands remained without power in the Dakotas and Michigan.

High winds and drifting snow continued to make travel hazardous in the Dakotas, even as vast stretches of highways that had been closed reopened to traffic. The no-travel warnings issued Christmas Day for much of North Dakota had largely expired by Tuesday, although the National Weather Service warned that drifting snow still blocked some roads.

Interstate 94, which had been closed for days in North Dakota, reopened Tuesday, as did Interstate 90 in South Dakota.

The Minot International Airport, which was closed Monday due to whiteout conditions, reopened Tuesday and was expecting its first flights — incoming and outgoing — late morning.

Winds gusting 40 mph to 50 mph also led to delays and cancellations at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport on Monday, but the airport returned to full operations the next day, reporting just a handful of delays.

The South Dakota Rural Electric Association said roughly 13,700 of its customers were without power early Tuesday, and it could take several days to restore service.

High winds knocked out power to thousands of customers in Michigan on Monday.

Consumers Energy spokesman Brian Wheeler told WOOD-TV that more than 20,000 customers in the state were without power Monday evening. The Traverse City Record Eagle reported that customers of several utilities in northern Michigan were without power Monday afternoon