By Kevin Thranow
(With additional Associated Press source materials)
Last week’s blizzard caused plenty of havoc in South Dakota and other neighboring states. Roads were impassible in many areas, schools, government offices, and businesses were closed. Patients needing medical care often couldn’t get to the nearest clinic or hospital, and health care staff also had trouble just getting to work.
The freezing rain that fell on Tuesday night laid a base of ice on highways which was then covered on Wednesday into Thursday with snow, making driving conditions even on ostensibly passable roads extremely treacherous.
The severity of the storm had many weather experts comparing it to South Dakota’s Blizzard of 1949, the 1952 Rosebud Blizzard and Flood, and the Super Storm of 1993.
While estimates of snow accumulation varied widely across the affected areas, the National Weather Service placed Todd County’s average snowfall in the 12-18 inch range. Intense winds buried long stretches of roadways under 2-4 feet of snow, and created drifts up to the eaves of many area residences, commercial structures, and apartments. Highway workers plowed as effectively as possible, leaving 5-6 foot tall snowbanks along local streets and highways.
This week, as temperatures continue to rise, many districts are reporting flooding that may close roads yet again. Major flooding has already been reported in South Dakota, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, and other regions.
Governor Kristi Noem closed approximately 39 government facilities, and the state legislature held a late-night session to pass a state budget before the storm hit.
Noem also ordered the opening of the state Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in Pierre to help coordinate the state’s response to ongoing blizzard and flood conditions and issued an emergency declaration that allows the use of additional state funds for South Dakota counties impacted by the blizzard and flood.
The extra money comes from the state’s Disaster Fund. The money can be used for costs incurred by state agencies for resources deployed to the scene at the request of a county. The emergency order also allows for the activation of the South Dakota National Guard if necessary.
Noem said the state has been providing resources and technical assistance as needed to those counties dealing with the storm and its aftermath. Departments like Public Safety and Transportation have been working with affected counties before the storm’s onset.
Although it’s unlikely that another major winter storm will pass through the area this season, the departments of Transportation and Public Safety released several recommendations from travelers during extreme weather events:
•Wear your seatbelt.
•Travel during the day.
•Drive with your headlights on (not daytime running lights) so you can be seen by other motorists from the front and rear.
•Don’t use cruise control on icy or snow-covered roads.
•Use highly traveled roads and highways.
•Keep family and friends informed of your travel schedule and route.
•Call 511 or visit safetravelusa.com for road conditions.
•Keep a winter weather survival kit in your car. The kit should include blankets, warm clothing, water, energy