First the snow, now the cold
As the snow settles on the ground in Mitchell, bitterly cold temperatures are expected to arrive today and cause the wind chill to fall well below zero.
The snow began to fall in Mitchell between 4 and 5 p.m. Tuesday as a winter storm moved into the area, according to Jeff Chapman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls.
By Wednesday morning, 5.6 inches of snow had fallen in the city. That total had increased to 7.2 inches by the afternoon.
But for the next few days, Chapman said, the concern will be the cold air expected to follow the storm into the area and cause temperatures to plummet.
“It’s pouring in behind our system here,” he said. “And the fact that we have the fresh snow cover now will really allow temperatures to be impacted by the cold air.”
The National Weather Service issued a wind chill advisory that went into effect at midnight and will remain in effect until at least 6 p.m. Friday.
The weather service forecasts a high of 6 degrees today with winds at 10 to 20 mph and gusts as high as 30 mph. The wind chill could drop as low as 22 below zero. Tonight, the forecast calls for a low of 12 below, with the wind chill falling as low as 28 below.
The cold temperatures won’t be short-lived, Chapman said, as wind chills are expected to routinely be between 20 and 30 below through Friday night.
Temperatures will remain cold until at least early next week, Chapman said, though winds are expected to taper off this weekend.
The wind was a factor as the winter storm moved through the area on Wednesday. The weather service reported northwest winds blowing at 25 mph, with gusts up to 35 mph, that afternoon in Mitchell.
“We haven’t heard of any significant problems with blowing snow,” Chapman said in an interview Wednesday morning. “It’s certainly going to be moving around with the snow we received yesterday and today.”
At 6 a.m. Wednesday, the city of Mitchell declared a snow emergency, which means any vehicles parked along the city’s emergency snow routes could be ticketed and towed. According to Russ Stevenson, an officer with the Mitchell Police Division, approximately 50 vehicles were ticketed and three vehicles were towed Wednesday.
Despite snow-packed road conditions, only one crash was reported Wednesday in Mitchell, Stevenson said. It occurred in a parking lot in the 1800 block of North Wisconsin Street and resulted in no injuries.
Ron Olson, the city’s street and sanitation superintendent, said the city’s east-west streets were plowed Wednesday morning and the north-south streets were plowed Wednesday afternoon.
Olson expected crews would start hauling snow from the downtown area by 11 p.m. Wednesday.
“With the wind, we’re going to be plowing drifted areas for the next couple of days,” Olson said.
The Mitchell School District canceled all classes Wednesday, including those at Mitchell Technical Institute. Classes at Mitchell Christian School and John Paul II Elementary were also canceled.
“We went out in the wee hours of the morning and realized the snow was going to be too deep to get in safely, especially this early in the year,” said Mitchell Superintendent Joe Graves.
The Mitchell School District accounts for two snow days in its calendar each year, Graves said, so there will be no calendar changes as a result of the season’s first snow day.
Graves wasn’t certain if the cold temperatures expected for the remainder of the week could lead to additional cancellations.
“If the roads are clear, we don’t worry too much about the cold,” he said.