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Walloped by Walda: Strong snow storm bears down on South Dakota

Posted: Thursday, Apr 11th, 2013


The Beadle County Sheriff’s Department and a representative from Lincoln Auto prepare to rescue a motorist that had slid into the median of Highway 14 East near the Custer Avenue intersection. This vehicle was one of three located in the median. PHOTO BY MIKE CARROLL/PLAINSMAN


SIOUX FALLS (AP) — A second wave of freezing rain and snow was expected to move through eastern South Dakota Tuesday night into Wednesday, prompting officials to tell residents to stay home and keep off the roads.

“We need to hunker down,” Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether said Tuesday afternoon. “This one is going to last a while.”

An early spring storm walloped South Dakota earlier Tuesday with rain, thunder, heavy snow and strong winds, downing large tree limbs and cutting power to thousands of homes and businesses.

Interstate 90 was closed between Rapid City and Sioux Falls Tuesday evening. Transportation officials will determine which, if any, stretches can reopen Wednesday morning.

The South Dakota Department of Transportation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency issued statements urging drivers to be cautious on the roads and to make plans for possible power outages.

“Spring storms are not unusual, but they can be very dangerous,” said Greg Fuller, operations director for the Transportation Department.

Up to a foot of snow fell in southwestern North Dakota on Monday, causing several vehicle accidents.

Schools closed across the state, as did some city and county offices. Secretary of State Jason Gant reported that more than two dozen cities and school districts informed him they were delaying elections for a week. Only personnel deemed essential were required to report to Ellsworth Air Force Base near Rapid City. Spring construction projects were halted in some cities.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard’s office issued a statement saying state government offices were open in Pierre but urging people to call ahead before visiting.

“State employees, like other South Dakota residents, are digging out from the storm,” the statement said.

National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Heitkamp in Sioux Falls said that office had reports of ice accumulations from one-quarter of an inch up to nearly half an inch, leading to power outages and widespread tree damage.

Xcel Energy said thousands of residents lost power in Sioux Falls as ice and ice-coated tree branches brought down power lines in eastern South Dakota.

Sioux Falls officials activated an emergency operation center, saying ice accumulation on roads, trees and power lines was leading to many emergency 911 calls.

Heitkamp said another quarter inch of rain was expected in the Sioux Falls area late Tuesday afternoon, followed by winds gusting up to 40 mph and 4 to 7 inches of snow in Sioux Falls after midnight. As much as 10 to 16 inches of snow was expected north and west of the city.

“That’s going to add to the weight of the trees, to the power lines,” he said. “Then we get the wind on top of that and then we get the snow on top of that. You can envision what can possibly occur.”

The agency issued storm advisories, watches and warnings for South Dakota. Forecasters said the storm moving across the Rocky Mountains and Greats Plains packed up to 20 inches of snow, along with sleet, freezing rain and winds gusting to 40 mph.

On Monday, up to a foot of snow fell in southwestern North Dakota, along with freezing rain and sleet, creating icy conditions and prompting officials to advise no travel in the region for a time. No serious injuries were reported despite a large number of vehicle accidents. An oil tanker crashed near South Heart, just south of Interstate 94 west of Dickinson, and spilled what authorities called a minimal amount of oil into the ditch.

The moisture brought by the storm was welcomed by farmers and landowners in the midst of drought in southwestern North Dakota and northwestern South Dakota, site of a grassland fire late last week that blackened more than 16 square miles.

“This spring precipitation — snow, rain whatever it might be — certainly helps but we do need a lot more of it, otherwise we’re going to be looking at probably some larger fires,” North Dakota Forest Service Fire Manager Sarah Tunge told KXMB-TV.



For the complete article see the 04-10-2013 issue.

Click here to purchase an electronic version of the 04-10-2013 paper.











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