OUR VIEW: Daugaard's storm leadership flawed, not scandalous
This is South Dakota, where snowstorms howl and rage and generally make things miserable for residents from border to border. That's just how it is here.
It's also why we don't agree with Joe Lowe, a Democrat who wants to run for governor, when he criticizes Gov. Dennis Daugaard's response to an off-season blizzard that blitzed the state in October.
Lowe, during a visit with The Daily Republic, said Daugaard didn't grasp "the magnitude of what happened" and criticized the governor's decision to not open the state's Emergency Operations Center during the storm. Lowe said the governor should have done more to warn people of the storm's magnitude.
Lowe said it all adds up to a lack of leadership.
We do agree that the storm was a surprise, bringing with it as much as 4 feet of damp snow to western South Dakota. We checked forecasts that we published in The Daily Republic in the days leading up to the storm and we couldn't find any prediction that called for nearly that much snowfall.
We do know the blizzard was well publicized in the days before it struck. Still, many cattle were caught unprotected out on the range, and that led to unprecedented livestock loss -- as many as 43,000 head killed overall.
A spokesman for the governor told us the Emergency Operations Center was not opened because Daugaard felt Black Hills counties are experienced with winter storms and that they were able to coordinate their own efforts.
South Dakotans are a clever breed. We sense when bad weather is brewing, and we know to heed the warnings that come rolling across the television screen. Those that do not, do so at their own risk.
We don't know what Daugaard could have done that would have changed the outcome of the storm.
Should the governor have opened the Emergency Operations Center in Pierre? In hindsight, probably yes. But this still isn't Watergate.
The livestock loss is serious, and many ranchers will feel the sting for years to come. However, the most important statistic from the storm is that no human deaths occurred, as far as we know.
For that reason, we don't fault Daugaard's actions during the blizzard, nor do we think it is the great campaign issue Lowe makes it to be.