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Heavy snows pop trees, power

Published Oct. 2, 2005

The autumn blizzard that buried the Rockies and the Plains left hundreds of thousands of people without electricity Monday after trees that hadn't lost their leaves trapped the heavy snow and collapsed under the weight.

"You could hear it from 11 o'clock on, just popping," said Heidi Stafford, a resident of Kalamazoo, Mich.

Stafford lost power during the night when full-foliage trees crashed onto power lines.

Up to 8 inches of snow blanketed parts of Michigan early Monday before the remnants of the storm blew northeastward into Canada. Colorado got nearly 4{ feet over the weekend, and Nebraska received 23 inches.

At least 13 deaths in seven states were blamed on the weather, and Colorado authorities searched for several missing hunters.

The storm's timing and strength heightened awareness of El Nino, the weather-disrupting phenomenon caused by warmer-than-normal water sloshing across the Pacific Ocean. While experts were not ready to blame El Nino specifically for the storm, they did not dismiss its influence.

"It fits very well with the pattern," said Martin Hoerling, a research meteorologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Only scattered power outages were reported when the storm hit Colorado. The snow that fell there was light enough that wind could whip it into drifts 15 feet high.

When the storm rolled across the Plains and into the Great Lakes, however, the snowflakes became wetter, stickier and heavier, clinging to power lines and accumulating in the tops of leaf-covered trees.