Winter bomb blasts in April
Snow arrived in a big way Thursday throughout South Dakota, blanketing much of the Mitchell region in at least a half-foot of snow in a mid-April blizzard.
All of the snow made travel in Mitchell mostly stalled out, as authorities asked for residents to stay put and schools and businesses shuttered for the storm. Between the daytime and anticipated evening snowfall, another 10 inches of snow was forecast to fall in Mitchell on Thursday.
As of 7 a.m. Thursday, Mitchell had received 6 to 7 inches of snow — including a bout of thunder snow at one point — while Dimock and Bonesteel each recorded 12 inches of snow. Wessington Springs had 11 inches of snow and Stickney logged 8 inches.
Mitchell School District called off school on Friday, canceling classes for a second day and making it the third day of school affected by the weather this week.
Thursday's snow was preceded by freezing rain that left layers of ice on trees, cars and signs, which caused some large tree branches to snap. Covered by the ensuing snow, plows and snowblowers were left to push wet piles of snow off the streets, parking lots and to the sides of walkways. Mitchell's snow emergency plowing was to continue throughout the storm, but city officials said they did not plan to plow secondary streets in town until the storm was over.
As of midday Thursday, more than 15,000 electric cooperative members in South Dakota were without power, all in the southeast corner of the state. Power crews were out in a number of communities around the state to fix power lines, many of which were dealing with ice-impacted lines. Mount Vernon was without power throughout Wednesday night into Thursday, with broken tree branches and power lines down, while Howard dealt with power outages for more than 12 hours, according to the Miner County Sheriff's Office.
Winds were also a problem in the region. Mitchell had recorded the highest wind gust of Thursday morning, the National Weather Service reported, with a 69 mph wind gust logged at 10:39 a.m. Interstate 90 and Interstate 29 remained closed on Thursday, and nearly the entire state had a "no travel advised" declaration made, as well. Elsewhere in the state, Pierre received 15 inches of snow, with Watertown receiving 17 inches of snow. Norbeck, located southwest of Aberdeen in Faulk County, had the recorded high snowfall as of Thursday afternoon, with 25 inches of snow.
Gov. Kristi Noem again ordered the closure of state government offices in 54 of the state's 66 counties on Thursday, asking that only essential personnel report to work. It marked the second straight day that most of the state's counties were closed and limited to essential services.
The blizzard has also increased the flood threat that has been impacting the James River in recent weeks. The river at Mitchell, which was measured at 22.5 feet on Thursday and is already at major flood stage, is expected to slowly rise heading into next week, with similar forecasts for locations both upstream and downstream on the river, as well.
Due to the weather, The Daily Republic was not able to deliver its Thursday print edition to customers, dealing with power issues with its printing press and poor road conditions. Friday's print edition was expected to deal with similar issues. Newspapers will still be printed and delivered at the soonest possible time.