There is an old saying about March coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb or vise versa. If this is true, the end of this month should be warm and sunny.
The storm that hit the state on Monday and Tuesday shut down interstates, travel on state highways, and closed businesses and schools. State offices across the area were closed as the spring storm roared through.
This system brought a wide range of precipitation types, including rain, hail, sleet, ice pellets and snow across the state. Thundersnow was reported late Sunday/early Monday morning across parts of northeast South Dakota.
Heavy snow accompanied by wind with gusts near 50 miles per hour reminded area residents that March is a volatile month in South Dakota. The heaviest snow occurred east of Mobridge with some local areas getting up to 13 inches of snow.
In Mobridge, according to the National Weather Service, 7.6 inches of snow fell. In Selby, 6.3, seven inches was recorded in Pollock. Eureka, Bowdle and Java all recorded between eight and nine inches of snow. Southeast of Herreid, 10 inches was recorded. In Leola, 11.3 inches fell and the heaviest snow in northern South Dakota was 13 inches near Craven’s Corner along U.S. Highway 12.
The heavier snow fell in North Dakota where 19 inches fell in Ellendale, north of Aberdeen.
West River communities didn’t see as much snow but the winds blew what fell across the prairie causing drifting issues in some areas.
In Timberlake, 3.4 inches was recorded and in Faith, only two inches was recorded.
Wind causes issues
John Villbrandt of the Mobridge Office of the South Dakota Department of Transportation said the blowing snow caused problems for plow drivers during the height of the storm.
Villbrandt said it is up to the plow drivers whether they can continue to work during conditions like those Monday and Tuesday. He said if they cannot see to do their job, there is no use in having the plows on the road.
“On Tuesday our West River crews couldn’t go out until daylight because of the blowing snow,” he said. “Most of the problems were caused by the wind with the sheltered areas and the ends of the bridges getting plugged.”
Villbrandt said the plows worked to clear those areas and then continued to work on keeping the roads from getting slick where the blowing snow was sticking to the roadways warmed by the sun on Tuesday.
Mobridge City Administrator Christine Goldsmith said the Mobridge Street Department worked through the night on Monday to keep the emergency routes in the city open and clear. She said crews went out about every three hours during the storm to keep those routes clear.
On Tuesday, the crews hit the streets and avenues to clear the snow from residential areas.
“They were able to get through just about all of the street work on Tuesday and are doing plowbacks and clean up today,” she said on Wednesday morning. “People were great about cooperating and moving their vehicles off the street. It makes their work much easier and it is much appreciated.”
Impact on ranchers
Cattlemen have extra problems this time of year because it is calving season. Freezing rain and snow, accompanied by wind is tough on newborns, but according to local producer Pat Thorstenson, if the weather was colder, the problem is more severe.
“We do whatever we can to protect them from wind,” he said. “It is the cold that hurts those babies the most.”
He said as the storm approached he moved his cows to two areas where there was protection from the wind. He laid a bed of straw for those cows that were close to calving, hoping that would help keep them warmer.
“The freezing rain is really tough on them because their temperature drops and it is difficult to get them warmed up again,” said Thorstenson. “They can survive a lot, but when that temperature drops that causes problems.”
He said ranchers provide protection from the wind in different ways. Trees provide break from the wind and haystacks can also provide protection. It is difficult with large herds to have enough indoor protection for the cows, so using what is available outdoors is key.
“We just move them into the areas that are best protected from the wind,” he said. “You use whatever you have to help them in those conditions.”
He said he was lucky as only three calves were born during the storm. He was able to get them inside where it was warmer and the calves survived and seemed healthy.
The longrange forecast show that temperatures should warm into the 30s as the week progresses.
There are no storms in the forecast for the next seven days.
– Katie Zerr –