No rest for the winter-weary.
The National Weather Service announced a new winter storm watch Tuesday morning for much of central South Dakota, including Hughes and Stanley counties, as well as Potter, Faulk, Sully, Hyde, Hand, Jones, Lyman and Buffalo counties.
From 5 inches to 19 inches of snow is predicted to fall over two days, said Mike Connelly of the weather service office in Aberdeen. It will begin Wednesday morning “around commute time” and continue through Thursday afternoon. Wind gusts of over 55 miles per hour could also pick up on Wednesday afternoon, making travel dangerous and largely impossible. Power lines and trees will be in danger from ice forming.
The relatively warm temperatures, around freezing, means that the snow will be heavier and wetter than that seen in February. It won’t drift quite as much, Connelly said, but will be no less dangerous.
“We call it heart attack snow,” he said. The wet snow’s weight means that shoveling it will be strenuous, and is not recommended for the elderly, the less-than-fit, or anyone with a history of heart trouble, he said.
Power outages are also possible throughout the area. Connelly said, “Travel Wednesday to Thursday is probably not advised.”
This warning was echoed by Rob Fines, emergency manager for Hughes and Stanley counties. Fines said the high winds and heavy snow could create whiteout conditions on the road. At the same time, fluctuating temperatures could turn slush and snowmelt into patches of ice.
Fines' best advice?
“Stay home while you can.”
The Emergency Management Department works with first responders to monitor Stanley and Hughes counties. They will respond to emergencies and attempt to reach anyone stranded by weather if it is possible, but Fines said the stormy conditions could hamper their efforts.
“If it’s 60 mile-an-hour winds and blowing snow, we can’t move until we know our operators will be safe,” he said.
As storm conditions develop, Fines encourages Stanley and Hughes county residents to sign up for AlertSense, the capital area’s public alert system for disasters and emergency situations. AlertSense can send notifications directly to your smartphone or other device; sign up at the Emergency Management Department’s website: hughescounty.org/departments/emergencymanagement.
“There is a silver lining [to the storm]” Connelly said. After the system has passed, “there’s nothing [in terms of more storms] on the immediate horizon.”
Central South Dakota might still see some early-spring snowfall, but for the moment it seems the worst of winter is about to pass.