Although it came later than originally expected on Saturday, an extreme winter storm pummeled its way into Mitchell over the weekend. Officials said the official measurement for Mitchell as of 5 p.m. was 9.5 inches of snow.
Initial weather predictions expected the storm arriving around 7 p.m. Saturday for the Mitchell area, but it wasn’t until 11:30 p.m. when sleet and freezing rain turned to snow late Saturday, lasting through all of Sunday.
Jen Hacker, meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, said areas southwest of the James River in the southern portion of the state experienced the most severe winter weather conditions.
“Lake Andes and surrounding areas saw some of the most snow, as there were reports of 8 to 11 inches over night. We started seeing a little more visibility restrictions this morning (Sunday) at around 6 a.m. with wind gusts picking up,” Hacker said, noting the visibility in the Mitchell area was down to a half mile or less. “Winds were increasing to about 25 to 40 mph and will continue much of the day.”
The nearest towns the NWS received snow total reports were Alexandria, Montrose and Platte. As of 9 a.m. Sunday morning, the NWS reported Alexandria -- located roughly 12 miles east of Mitchell -- received just over 7 inches of snowfall, while Montrose reported 4 inches.
Areas further east of Mitchell along Interstate 90 experienced less snowfall, but it was a much different picture for towns located southwest of Mitchell. According to the NWS, Platte received over 6 inches, while Burke was doused with 8 inches of snowfall as of 9 a.m. Sunday.
Hacker said the NWS issued a blizzard warning Sunday around 1 p.m. that included Mitchell and areas along the James River valley. The blizzard warning will be in effect until midnight Monday.
The winter storm prompted the closure of Interstate 90, which went into effect at 7 p.m. on Saturday prior to the heavy snowfall spanning into Monday. According to the state Departments of Public Safety and Transportation, the closure area stretched on Interstate 90 westbound from Mitchell to Wall and Interstate 90 eastbound from Rapid City Exit 67 to Mitchell. As of Sunday evening, Interstate 90 will remain closed due to the poor road conditions and icy patches. In addition, the Hoops City Classic college basketball games were cancelled Sunday at the Corn Palace due to the weather.
Despite the winter snowstorm creating poor road conditions, several law enforcement authorities from around the area saw a calm weekend on the roads, as only a few drivers veered off into ditches.
Hutchinson County Deputy Dan Schulte said there was one vehicle that went into the ditch, but no crash reports occurred over the weekend. According to Jake Reimer, patrolman with the Chamberlain Police Department, there were several reports of the State Highway Patrol responding to vehicles that ended up in the ditch along Interstate 90. However, Reimer said there weren’t any weather related vehicle crashes in the Chamberlain area.
Dakota Wesleyan University announced its business offices will open late at noon Monday.
Hacker said Mitchell saw a temperature high of 34 degrees on Saturday, which maintained into the evening hours, causing the freezing rain to not switch over to snow until later in the night. A Sunday morning cool down brought highs to around 28 degrees that allowed plenty of snow precipitation.
“There was also a warm air aloft that wrapped back into the James River valley, which is also what caused a little more freezing rain and drizzle rather than snowfall,” Hacker said.
The winter weather front is slated to move out of the Mitchell area by late Monday morning, according to Hacker. There are no signs of a similar storm event on the horizon, Hacker said.
“There isn’t any winter weather is expected to be near as strong as this system over the next seven to 10 days,” Hacker said, “It’s looking like we could see some stronger winds this week, but no snow events like we just experienced are expected.”