After record April snowfall, hope turns to warmer days ahead
Is it finally over?
Mitchell and the surrounding region was left to dig out from a pounding April blizzard Friday, which dropped a record 15 inches of snow on the city.
That 15 inches of snow was recorded Thursday, and was a record for a single day April snowfall event. It broke the mark of 12.5 inches of snow on April 14, 2018. Prior to last year's two-day blast, one had to go back to April 27, 1907, for the last April day when a foot or more of snow fell in the city.
Thursday's snow also broke the daily record for April 11, previously held by a 4-inch snowfall from 2013. Other reported snow totals on Thursday in Mitchell ranged from 14 to 16.5 inches.
For the season, Mitchell has now received 67.6 inches of snow. Comparatively, Mitchell had received 41.3 inches of snow at this time last year, but that was before receiving 16.2 inches of snow over two days on April 13-14, 2018.
Between 1.2 inches of snow on Wednesday and 15 inches Thursday, Mitchell also matched its two-day snow total record from the April 2018 blast, as well.
Northern Tripp County, in the areas of Ideal and Hamill, each measured 24 inches of snow on Thursday evening, with heavy blowing snow. Wessington Springs received 20 inches of snow, while Woonsocket tallied 18 inches of snow, and Mount Vernon recorded 17 inches of snowfall, as well.
Thousands of people in central South Dakota experienced power outages since snow and ice began to cover the region Wednesday, and for many, those outages could continue for several more days.
As of 11 a.m. Friday, about 900 customers were without power across six counties covered by Central Electric Cooperative.
According to the South Dakota Rural Electric Association, there was a point on Thursday at which more than 16,000 people across the state were without power. By Friday afternoon, that number was reduced to just under 7,000.
"We're seeing the highest concentration in Aurora, Davison, Sanborn and Miner counties," said Courtney Deinert, the company's manager of communications.
Deinert said the most outages throughout the storm were caused by wind and ice — some pieces of which in Stickney were "the size of a pop can," Deinert said — on Wednesday. On that day alone, 4,000 customers lost power, although some outages were brief.
About 40 Central Electric employees were working to restore power on Friday, with assistance from electrical cooperatives from other parts of the state.
Deinert said that while crews are working to restore power, Central Electric is asking customers to prepare for the possibility of an outage lasting through the weekend or early next week.
South of Central Electric's service area, the number of power outages varied, although most cooperatives were affected in some way by issues with their transmission power provider.
Russell Gall, manager of the Charles Mix Electric Association, said he considers his area fortunate to not have had many power outages. The county saw a few scattered outages on Wednesday and fewer than 40 on Thursday, all of which were restored by 8:15 p.m. Gall said two of Charles Mix Electric's crews went to help the Bon Homme Yankton and Douglas cooperatives Friday.
According to the Douglas Electric Cooperative, linemen were working as of early Friday afternoon to restore power to 60 customers and repair 10 poles that were down in Douglas County.
In eastern Gregory County, Rosebud Electric has told customers to expect to be without power for the next 48 to 72 hours, as they rebuild power lines from Herrick to St. Charles and working east from Fairfax. The co-op said its Bonesteel substation is currently non-operational, and the Western Area Power Administration is reviewing the damage at feeds the Bonesteel station. A foot of snow was measured in Bonesteel on Friday morning
"Our guys will continue to replace the many broken poles and power lines that have been reported," the co-op said in a message to customers, while adding that private contractors were being hired to help out.
Southeastern Electric Cooperative, based in Marion, reported more than 100 damaged poles in its area, including heavily damaged areas near Canistota and Montrose. Broken poles and wires were expected to be addressed Friday and Saturday by electric crews.
Crews from the Bon Homme Yankton Electric Association worked until 2 a.m. and began working again at 7 a.m. Thursday to restore power to about 2,000 customers.
General Manager Stephanie Horst said much of the damage was caused by ice, and that because the outages are widespread, travel is difficult and trees and other debris from the storm have been getting stuck in power lines, getting power back to the entire area has not been a quick fix.
As of Friday, Horst said 83 customers in Bon Homme County and 107 in Yankton County were still without power.
"Our members have been so patient," said Horst, encouraging people to call the electric company if they see down lines, rather than going near them.
Roads re-open in SD, as melt watch starts again
While most of the state of South Dakota was locked in place during the blizzard, snowplows were able to open the major highways by midday Friday. Interstate 29 and Interstate 90 both re-opened from border to border, but state officials advised of snowy and icy conditions still on the roadways.
"Motorists are strongly cautioned that winter driving conditions of compacted snow and ice and blowing snow are making travel difficult not only on the Interstate, but other highways across the state," the Department of Transportation said in a statement.
In Mitchell, a "no travel advised" declaration was also lifted Friday afternoon, but crews were still working to open up side streets throughout the day.
The seven-day forecast calls for the end of a snow threat but local residents will be watching the rate of the snowmelt, with temperatures expected to climb into the low 50s during the daytime hours next week, and overnight lows in the mid-30s. The James River, Firesteel Creek and the portion of the Missouri River that borders Bon Homme County remains in a Flood Warning.
The James River at Mitchell is expected to climb above 24 feet on Monday, with additional rises possible thereafter, the National Weather Service says. At stages near 24 feet, State Highway 38 near Mitchell begins to flood. The river was measured at 22.45 feet as of 10 a.m. Friday.
Regional storm snowfall totals
26 — White River
24 — Ideal and Hamill (through Thursday afternoon), De Smet
20.5 — Huron
20 — Wessington Springs
18 — Woonsocket
17 — Mount Vernon
15 — Mitchell
14 — Armour and Dimock
13.8 — Plankinton and Presho
12 — Alexandria, Bonesteel and Lake Andes
10.5 — Tyndall and Delmont
10 — Menno
*Most totals as of 7 a.m. Friday, unless noted.