After a break from winter weather over the past few weeks, the Mitchell area will see snow return to the area beginning Wednesday night with total accumulations of 4 to 5 inches once the storm concludes.
The National Weather Service in Sioux Falls said area residents can expect rain, freezing drizzle, snow and wind with the system that is moving into the area.
“We had a little taste of forbidden fruit. It’s hard to revert back to that when you get a little bit of warmth, but that’s OK. We’re getting close to the end,” said Brad Adams, observing program leader for the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls.
Rusty Weinberg, superintendent for the Davison County Highway Department, said crews will be ready to clear the roads despite staffing changes implemented due to the spread of COVID-19.
The Davison County Commission approved Saturday allowing all county department heads to determine the number of staff members their respective department needs to operate through March 22 as long as it is approved through Commission Chairperson Brenda Bode.
“All my guys are home except for me, but if anything weather-related comes in, I’ll be calling my guys in to take care of it. Not much has changed really other than they’re not here,” Weinberg said.
The current forecast calls for a slight chance of drizzle before 4 p.m. on Wednesday, with that chance increasing to 60 percent after 1 a.m.
The bulk of the storm will arrive Thursday, when rain is expected before noon, after which it will likely turn to a mix of rain and snow between noon and 1 p.m., and then turning completely to snow after 1 p.m. That snow could be heavy at times, reducing to patchy blowing snow after 3 p.m. Temperatures will fall to around 28 by 5 p.m., Adams said, and winds will pick up to 15 to 20 mph in the afternoon, with gusts approaching 40 mph.
“The precipitation chance ramps up overnight Wednesday into Thursday morning. That should all be liquid through most of the daytime on Thursday, at least until the afternoon at about 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. when it will change over to snow,” Adams said.
“It looks like a broad band swath of 3 to 5 inches, and right now we have 4 inches painted in for the Mitchell area and surrounding communities,” Adams said. “Some of that will depend on how quickly the cold air changes it over to snow. We’ll see that play out in the next 24 to 36 hours.”
Once the snow is on the ground, travelers should expect blowing snow and possible visibility issues.
“There is going to be some wind with this event. We’ll have some blowing snow as it peaks through (Thursday) evening, with gusts up to 30 to 40 mph. But once we get to Thursday night it will quickly diminish,” Adams said.
Adams said it is more likely to feel like winter than spring, with temperatures over the next few days expected to only reach as high as the 40s.
“It will be cold. The Friday high will only be in the 20s, and once we get through Friday, the weekend will feel cool, in the 20s to 30s, and maybe flirting with the 40s on Sunday afternoon, but the rain and snow will be long gone by then,” Adams said.
More precipitation could return to the area early next week, but Adams said it was unclear at this time if or how much could fall.
“Once we get beyond the weekend, it looks like we’ll get back up to the 40s, with a threat of some rain showers Monday into Monday night and Tuesday could potentially change to snow, but that’s pretty far out,” Adams said.
In any case, travelers should be alert for winter driving conditions over the course of the storm.
“When you get into Thursday, roads will become snow-covered and it will get more treacherous as the afternoon and evening wears on,” Adams said. “There will be blowing snow Thursday evening and Friday morning, so even if the snow is over there would be snow on the roads even after they are cleared. Just watch out for icy patches if you’re traveling.”
Weinberg said the department is responsible for about 180 miles of blacktop and between 400 and 500 miles of gravel roads in the county. And while COVID-19 may have changed office procedure for the time being, it is the record-breaking precipitation from 2019 and the damage it caused to roads in the area that will likely be the biggest problem for his crew.
“With the condition of the gravel I’m hoping we don’t get a lot, they are so soft and torn up,” Weinberg said.
He said county workers would clear everything they are capable of clearing, but in some places it may be too difficult to open roads that have gone soft after the frost came out.
“It might be just oil roads, and on a case-by-case basis,” Weinberg said.
Weinberg also encouraged travelers to stay safe as the weather system moves into the area.
“With the road damage, just be smart with your driving around and be cautious. Everything is changing all the time,” Weinberg said.