The signs of a nasty April blizzard began to show on Wednesday, as heavy rain, wind and ice arrived in the Mitchell area, while heavy snow began to blanket much of the state.
And that’s only expected to be the start of it.
A band of snowfall ranging from 18 to 24 inches -- with localized amounts even higher -- was expected to run from Martin to Milbank from Wednesday night into Friday, with towns like Murdo, Chamberlain, Mitchell and Huron right in the heart of the expected snowfall.
Mitchell Superintendent Joe Graves at 6:30 p.m. called off schools Thursday. No school for students in Mitchell School District, John Paul II or Mitchell Technical Institute. Due to another day of canceled classes and from previous closures, the school year will now be extended two days. Dakota Wesleyan University is also closed Thursday.
At about 6 p.m., the South Dakota Department of Public Safety announced the closure of Interstate 90 from Mitchell west to Rapid City. Interstate 29 from Brookings north to the North Dakota border was closed. Officials said I-90 from Mitchell to Sioux Falls and I-29 from Sioux Falls to Brookings are closing at 7 p.m.
Its impending arrival has already closed schools and state government offices. Gov. Kristi Noem on Wednesday morning announced the closure of state government offices in 52 counties, including locally Aurora, Bon Homme, Brule, Buffalo, Charles Mix, Davison, Douglas, Gregory, Hanson, Hutchinson, Jerauld, Lyman, McCook, Miner, Sanborn and Tripp.
Rural electric customers were dealing with major outages throughout the region. As of 3 p.m. Wednesday, more than 2,200 Central Electric Cooperative customers in seven area counties were without power. That included more than 800 without power in Hanson County, more than 700 without power in Davison County, and another nearly 450 customers without power in Miner County. NorthWestern Energy and Xcel Energy also reported outages in Davison, Miner and Sanborn counties, as well.
But within an hour, Central Electric had reduced the number of outages to fewer than 1,000. The Mitchell Department of Public Safety also reported that Santel was having issues with telephone outages in Davison, Hanson and Hutchinson counties, and asked people to call 911 from cell phones, if necessary.
The city of Mitchell called for a snow emergency before any snow began to fall, in anticipation of heavy snowfall Wednesday night. The Mitchell School District, John Paul II Elementary School and Mitchell Technical Institute closed on Wednesday afternoon, as well. MTI had already called off Wednesday evening activities, and the culinary boucherie has been postponed until May 7.
But for the daytime hours Wednesday, Mitchell dealt with bouts of heavy rain, with the temperature barely hanging above freezing.
The National Weather Service in Sioux Falls - which is predicting Mitchell to receive 21 inches of snow as part of this storm - expected the change over to heavy and blowing snow later in the evening and into Thursday morning. There will be low visibility with 40 to 50 mph wind gusts and travel will be nearly impossible, the NWS says.
Around the rest of the state, South Dakota State University in Brookings announced the closure of its campus beginning at 5 p.m. Wednesday and that remains in effect until 10 a.m. Friday.