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Snow accumulation highest since 2013

Mitchell police were out in full force Wednesday following the city's largest snowstorm in nearly four years. Local officers issued 47 parking tickets for vehicles parked on east-to-west streets in Mitchell, which the city asked to keep clear so ...

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Renee Cundy clears the sidewalk on Wednesday morning in Mitchell following the snow storm that came through Tuesday and continued into the morning. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Mitchell police were out in full force Wednesday following the city’s largest snowstorm in nearly four years.

Local officers issued 47 parking tickets for vehicles parked on east-to-west streets in Mitchell, which the city asked to keep clear so snow plows could come through, Patrol Sgt. Ryan Erickson said, but the ticket total is small compared to storms that occur earlier in the season.

“Usually by the second or third snowfall, people start heeding the warning a little bit better, and this go around, our ticket numbers were down significantly to prior snowfalls,” Erickson said.

The ticket numbers for previous storms were not immediately available, but total parking tickets often spike in December, not January. According to police reports presented to the Mitchell City Council each month, December parking tickets from 2013 to 2016 took four of the top five spots over the past four years, with between 124 and 227 tickets issued. The highest total in a single month was February 2015, with 365.

Ticket totals for the most recent storm could still rise. Erickson said police would not start ticketing cars parked on north-south streets until 1 a.m. Thursday, so any vehicles moved before then will have avoided a $25 fine.

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The parking regulations were in response to a winter storm that arrived in central South Dakota Tuesday afternoon and left large snow totals across the region, including 7.4 inches in Mitchell, according to Meteorologist Alex Ferguson with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls.

The recent accumulation was the highest since Feb. 10, 2013, when Mitchell was hit with 9.6 inches of snow, Ferguson said.

Classes for the Mitchell School District, Mitchell Technical Institute, John Paul II Elementary School and Dakota Wesleyan University were canceled Wednesday.

Ferguson said the most recent storm was caused by warm, moist air from the south hitting approximately 0- to 10-degree air over South Dakota.

“With that, you can get some really good snow production, and that’s actually how you get these thin bands of heavy snow where you can get a foot or a foot and a half,” Ferguson said.

Pickstown was among the hardest hit with 18 inches of accumulation, according to Ferguson, but Pickstown Board of Trustees President Bob Altenburg said the town may have received even more.

“I’ve been here 10 years, and I haven’t seen that. I know we’ve had 12, 13 inches, but never this deep,” Altenburg said.

Schools in Wagner and Lake Andes were closed for the day, Altenburg said, but with town maintenance man Mike Jansen clearing the streets, business continued as usual.

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“I’m sure everybody would rather go to work than scoop snow,” Altenburg said. “I’ll probably have to hire it done, it’s so deep.”

In other areas, the storm left 15 inches in Burke, 12 inches in Tyndall, 9.5 inches in Chamberlain, 8 inches in Salem, 5 inches in White Lake and 2 inches in Howard, according to NWS. Farther away, 15.5 inches were recorded in Yankton, 6.4 inches in Sioux Falls and 3 inches were reported in Huron.

Temperatures across southeastern South Dakota varied between 20 and 32 degrees from 9 a.m. Tuesday to 9 a.m. Wednesday, but winds remained fairly low, with a maximum gust of 28 mph measured in Mitchell.

“It’s a small hardship, if you call it a hardship,” Altenburg said. “It’s something that’s going to happen. We live in South Dakota.”

Ferguson said a light snowfall could continue through the night, but NWS doesn’t see any major snowstorms on the horizon. The rest of the week should have high temperatures in the 20s, which will likely rise above 30 in Mitchell by Monday. The Chamberlain area could warm up even quicker, with highs above 30 by Saturday.

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