‘It’s a true taste of the worst of winter’ as major storm on the way to pack a punch
Mitchell School District has one snow day to give before moving to online learning
MITCHELL — Ready or not, another round of severe winter weather is heading this way.
That’s the latest from the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, which is predicting a multi-day storm that could drop as much as 18 inches of snow or more in and around the Mitchell area and beyond.
“It will be an extremely significant weather event across the area,” said Jeff Chapman, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Sioux Falls. “It will have impacts that will be widespread and significant. Some places could be as bad or worse as the storm at the beginning of January.”
The weather will start taking a turn for the worse about Tuesday mid-morning with a 65% of precipitation beginning around 9 a.m. and picking up significantly approaching midnight. Snow will steadily increase during the overnight hours, with the heaviest snowfall likely to pick up around noon Wednesday.
While Mitchell will definitely see some snowfall over the course of that time, the heaviest early snowfall on Tuesday may center around the Highway 14 corridor near Brookings and Marshall, Minnesota, Chapman said.
The bulk of the storm will hit late Wednesday and into Thursday, and residents can expect a good amount of snow to accompany the high winds and falling temperatures.
“We’ll have not only heavy snow that will likely be in excess of 6 to 8 inches, but we’ll also have wind gusts looking at between 40 to 45 miles per hour and maybe even 50 miles per hour,” Chapman said.
The National Weather Service is expecting the storm to be serious enough to advise residents to prepare for an extended stay at home. Heavy snow and wind are expected to make travel difficult, if not impossible, across much of the area. Chapman said now is the time to begin adjusting travel plans, stocking the refrigerator and making sure equipment like snow blowers are working and shovels are at the ready.
The storm is expected to be widespread and cover most of South Dakota as part of a coast-to-coast storm system. There is likely no place around the state where travel will at least be somewhat impacted.
“It’s going to make for a travel situation where it’s extremely difficult to impossible,” Chapman said. “Think right now about changing your travel plans for the middle of the week. Delay or just don’t do it.”
The intensity of the storm should begin to ebb as Thursday presses on, but cold temperatures could still be a factor.
“The whole package just gets worse as you go through Wednesday into Thursday, and then the temperatures move into Friday morning. It’s a true taste of the worst of winter,” Chapman said.
After that, the beginning of next week looks to be closer to average temperatures for the area, and chances for new precipitation are minimal, Chapman said.
The anticipated storm is just the latest round of winter weather that has dumped a significant amount of snow on Mitchell and South Dakota in general. Mitchell saw 23 inches of snowfall over the course of two days a few days into the new year, and about 40.5 inches of snow has fallen during the winter season in Mitchell this year. There is plenty of time left for more snow to fall, but there is still a way to go before totals reach 71.5 inches, which is the record for total winter snowfall in Mitchell, occurring during the winter of 1916-17, according to Chapman.
The Mitchell area received 67.6 inches of snow over the winter season as recently as the winter of 2018-19.
The excessive amounts of snow could help continue to ease the ongoing drought conditions residents continue to face around the state. According to the United States Drought Monitor, 100% of the state is experiencing some kind of drought condition, ranging from abnormally dry exceptional drought.
But Chapman said residents should stay in winter weather mode for the time being and put in a little time getting ready for the rest of the week.
“Prepare for what's coming toward the middle of the week. It’s a good idea to make those preparations now. Make sure your snowblower is working, make sure you have food and water and know where the flashlights are in case of power outages due to the wind. Be ready to check in on others who may need assistance. All those typical winter weather prep activities,” Chapman said. “Do them all (Monday).”
School snow days piling up
No decisions have yet been made on calling off school for weather this week, but Joe Childs, interim superintendent for the Mitchell School District, said this year seems to have been especially rough when compared to some past years.
“It definitely seems like we’ve been seeing more weather than is typical,” Childs said.
The district has had six snow days so far this year, Childs said. Should it need to call off one more day of school, that day would be tacked on to the end of the year along with the other snow make-up days, which would make May 26 the final day of classes at the Mitchell School District.
If the district needs more than one more snow day, no further days of school would be added to the end of the year. Instead, if another snow day is needed, classes that day would be held in an online format, and subsequent snow days would be handled the same way. That would leave May 26 as the last day of school for the year, regardless of future weather events.
Childs said the decision for calling off school due to snow can have a different threshold this late in the year. With no snow on the ground early in the year, a two-inch snow may not warrant postponing or canceling a school day. But with a deep snowpack already on the ground, a two-inch snowfall hits harder.
Harsh winter weather is a reality of living in South Dakota, but school patrons are used to it and usually adjust very well to changes in scheduling. Foresight and preparation also help, Childs said. Some elementary teachers have already sent home study packets for their students to work on in the event school is called off again.
“I don’t think it has a major impact on the quality of learning or education. There’s an understanding living in South Dakota that we’ll see some inclement weather during the year,” Childs said. “The kids handle it awfully well, and we have learned some things about how to learn the technology and how to conduct business as usual even when we can’t be in our physical location.”
School cancellations and late starts announcements can be found on the Mitchell Republic website and through the Mitchell School District app.