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Wet, sloppy snow slams Mitchell

Craig Kelly shoveled his sidewalk on Fourth Avenue Tuesday afternoon as heavy snow fell on Mitchell. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)1 / 2
Snow blankets downtown Mitchell Tuesday morning on Main Street near the Corn Palace. (Sean Ryan/The Daily Republic)2 / 2

Schools across the area closed early Tuesday as a band of winter weather passed through southeastern South Dakota.

Wet, heavy snow fell in Mitchell from 8 a.m. to about 3 p.m. dumping 3.4 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

A low pressure system moved into the area from the northern Rocky Mountains, said Jim Murray, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls. He said Mitchell was right in the middle of the heaviest snowfall for the region, which focused on the east-central portion of South Dakota and James River Valley region. Though the weather was a change from recent signs of spring and mild temperatures, Murray said snowfall in March is nothing unusual.

"Either in the late fall or early spring is when we actually usually get our heavier snows," he said. "There are exceptions, but we still have a lot of moisture in the air."

As Tuesday's front moved through the area to the east, it weakened and mostly became rain. Murray said even the areas hardest hit likely won't have to scoop snow much past Thursday, when temperatures are supposed to hit the mid-50s.

"It shouldn't stick around too long," he said, adding that it's good to see a few flurries this time of year, when snow typically has a much higher moisture content than in sub-zero temperatures. "It's good for the moisture, to get some moisture in the soil and for the crops later on."

As the small band moved through the area to the east, it weakened and mostly became rain, he added. The band of winter weather covered all of or portions of Charles Mix, Douglas, Aurora, Davison, Sanborn, Hanson, Miner, Hutchinson, Gregory, Brule, Bon Homme and McCook counties, according to NWS maps.

At least 11 schools in seven counties within Mitchell's print circulation area closed early between 12:30 and 2 p.m.

Mitchell School District Superintendent Joe Graves said the decision to let students leave at 1:45 p.m. Tuesday was brought on by a combination of worsening visibility and snow accumulation in rural areas.

"We wanted to make sure conditions didn't worsen so we would be endangering kids' safety," he said.

By Tuesday afternoon, 5.5 inches of snow fell near Mount Vernon, according to the National Weather Service. By noon, 2 inches fell in Mitchell.

A total of 28.4 inches, which includes Tuesday's snowfall, has fallen in the Mitchell area this winter, according to NWS. As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, .32 inches of precipitation fell.

Temperatures are set to fluctuate throughout the week, but will not compare to the winter's coldest temperatures. Today's expected high is 44 degrees and the area may get a few flurries or some rain, but not much, he said.

Thursday's temperature is expected to get up to 55 degrees, but then back down to 46 degrees on Friday with some rain or snow, and into the 30s on Saturday.

Despite the heavy, wet snowfall Tuesday, few area law enforcement agencies reported major accidents. A few said cars were in the ditch, and Mitchell's Police Division, Davison County Sheriff's Office and Hanson County Sheriff's Office said there were several cars and semis that slid into the ditch along Interstate 90.

Mitchell Police Sgt. Mike Koster advised travelers take simple steps to stay safe, such as checking road and weather conditions before setting out and giving someone an estimated arrival time, just in case something goes wrong.

"Call ahead and let someone know you're leaving, let them know when you expect to arrive," he said. "Slow down and take your time."

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