Blizzard slammed S.D. hardMeteorologists predicted a storm was on its way, and they were right as a blizzard pounded the area Thursday.
By: Ashley Martin The Dickinson Press, Worthington Daily Globe
Meteorologists predicted a storm was on its way, and they were right as a blizzard pounded the area Thursday.
People shoveling, scraping off windshields and stuck in slow-moving traffic could be seen all day — if blowing snow didn’t obstruct the view.
“We’ve had a lot of vehicles going into the ditch,” said Capt. Tony Huck of the Dickinson District Highway Patrol. “There haven’t been very many accidents and mainly it’s just vehicles losing control and going into the ditch because of the icy conditions.”
Several highways were closed due to zero visibility.
He added Interstate 94, from Dickinson to Mandan was closed off at 5 p.m. Authorities shut the on-ramp gates and travelers in between could get off, but not back on.
“It just makes it very hazardous for the plows to be out,” Huck said. “We’ll open it as soon as the DOT can get out there and get it cleared out.”
DOT officials also advised no travel on several roads including all roads from Highway 1 west to the Montana border, excluding the extreme northwest and southeast corners of the area.
Lt. Rod Banyai of the Dickinson Police Department said a couple of vehicles in Dickinson got stuck and six or seven people reported minor accidents.
Many area schools also closed Thursday.
“We just decided it would just be best to keep the kids home for the day,” said Riley Mattson, South Heart School principal.
Transportation issues also kept Hebron Public School closed.
“There’s a lot of snow and people I’ve talked to here in town commented that the buses would have a hard time moving around even here in town, much less in the country,” superintendent Bob Osland said.
Dickinson Public Schools were open Thursday, but the busses did not run.
“We felt that out in the country the roads were bad enough and in conjunction with that the Department of Transportation had no travel on the county and state roads,” superintendent Paul Stremick said. “After evaluating the situation and driving around in town, we felt that it was still safe enough to have school for the in-town kids.”
He added even when school is not cancelled it is still up to parents to decide whether their children will go to school.
School officials plan for classes to resume today.
The snow was blowing so bad in areas Thursday that the Highway Patrol often waited to tow cars out of snow banks.
“Because of the visibility, if the vehicle is not a traffic hazard, we’ve been leaving them out there for now, until it gets better and we’ve just been giving the people a ride into town and putting them up in motels for now,” Huck said.
Kaitlyn Bruins from Days Hotel and Amanda Evans from AmericInn in Dickinson said many people were checking in to get out of the storm and others were staying longer than intended. Others decided not to try to travel.
“A lot of people cancelled their rooms,” Evans said.
John Martin of the National Weather Service said he expects today will be less severe.
“It certainly will be better for the standpoint of visibility,” he said.
Parts of Dunn County received about 9 inches of snow, according to the Weather Service.
“The wind is blowing so hard it’s hard to tell how much snow we got,” said Terry Sarlsland, street superintendent in Bowman. “We got 4-foot drifts in some places.”
Sharon Gjermundson, a postmaster in Taylor, said that about a foot of snow kept her from punching in at work Thursday, and that she and her husband were worried about their livestock.
“We hope all the cattle are OK,” she said.
South Dakota hit hard
“This is a dangerous storm,” Gov. Mike Rounds told reporters in a telephone conference call Thursday evening. “Western South Dakota is basically under a no-travel advisory.”
A long stretch of Interstate 90 was closed, and Rounds said most of the dozens of vehicles stranded along the stretch of highway had not been moved. Some have been stranded for more than 24 hours, he said, adding that search teams can’t get to them because of zero visibility.
Tom Dravland, state Public Safety secretary, said he did not know how many people are stranded. The Highway Patrol has responded to more than 400 calls for assistance, including 10 crashes. No fatalities were reported by late Thursday afternoon.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.