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Tumbleweeds Bury Houses in South Dakota Town

November 9, 1989 GMT

MOBRIDGE, S.D. (AP) _ Tumbleweeds tossed by 50-mph winds buried houses in this Missouri River town, and residents struggled to dig out of the prickly problem.

The mayor warned residents who had tumbleweeds up to their chimneys to clear them to reduce the danger of fire.

The weeds had grown thick all summer along the banks of the drought- shrunken Oahe Reservoir in north-central South Dakota. Winds out of the west Tuesday evening sent the weeds rolling across the prairie.

″People in the west end of town as they were sitting in their homes ... heard what sounded like rocks being thrown against their houses,″ Larry Atkinson, publisher of The Mobridge Tribune, said Wednesday.

″They came out this morning to find out that a number of houses were buried, literally buried, with tumbleweeds. We had some homes with only the roof sticking out.

″We had people that could not get out of their driveways,″ Atkinson said. ″We had streets that were blocked, literally invaded by tumbleweeds.″

Mayor Darrell Bender urged residents to help clean up the mess. City crews cleared the brush from the streets so vehicles could pass. The cleanup was continuing today.

″It’s developing into what could be a very dangerous situation,″ Bender said. ″We need to use extreme caution. I’d like to tell people not to drive through those tumbleweeds. Those that have homes that are covered up to their chimneys, get those weeds cleared so they don’t start a fire.″

Bender said he had asked the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which manages the reservoir system, to help in the cleanup.

″I personally feel they have a responsibility for those weeds,″ he said. ″They have done nothing to control the weeds. They’re 6 feet tall down there. We’re going to have this problem every time we have a west wind. I had advised them previously that they had large weeds down there, and I was worried about what was going to happen.″

Phone calls by The Associated Press to the corps went unanswered late Wednesday.

Atkinson said removing the tumbleweeds will be difficult.

″Nobody knows for sure what to do with them,″ he said. ″You can’t crush them. All you can really do is move them around.″

He said the corps planned to conduct a controlled burn to remove some of the remaining weeds.

″It was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen,″ Atkinson said. ″We’ve been buried with snow before up in this area, but this is the first time anybody can remember being buried with tumbleweeds.″