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State slammed with winter storm

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Pierre residents on Henry Street late Wednesday afternoon,  March 13, as the blizzard was arriving. (Stephen Lee/ Capital Journal)

The weather predictions got it right, unfortunately.

The winter storm was announced with many day’s warning. Many people who had to travel planned ahead. Legislators in Pierre ended their 39th day of session at 3 a.m., Wednesday, March 13,  many with the goal of getting home before the blizzard hit.

On Wednesday, March 13, at 7 a.m., the governor closed state government offices in 39 counties due to the forecasts. By Thursday morning state offices in 10 more counties had been added to the closed list. Those offices were mostly in the western, central and northeastern part of the state. All of the counties were either part of a blizzard warning or a winter storm warning issued by the National Weather Service. The forecasts called for ice and winds, heavy snow blown around by high winds. The eastern part of the state would receive heavy and freezing rain. Some areas, such as Yankton, were already seeing flood conditions.

By 3 p.m., Wednesday, roads were being closed for the safety of travelers. Interstate 90, which had already been closed from the Wyoming border to Wall, was closed from Wall to Chamberlain. Flooding, now over roads, was reported in southeast and south central South Dakota.

Travelers who had been told to call 511 or visit www.safetravelusa.com for the most current conditions, were now told to not travel. That continues throughout today. Department of Transportation maintenance crews had been out since 4:00 a.m. Wednesday. As the weather became worse, those plows were being pulled off highways, and all were brought in at nightfall.

Through the www.safetravelusa.com/sd website, the 511 phone weather system, and other sources, people were, and are, being constantly updated on road conditions. With many roads closed, and travel not advised on the others, the departments of Transportation and Public Safety was warning people who still had to travel to be prepared and take extra precautions. The usual warnings now included, if you do get stranded to stay in your vehicle. The warnings now include the items and actions needed to stay alive until help arrives.

Today, March 14, at 7:00 a.m., the governor ordered all state government offices closed. Only essential personnel within state offices in all counties should report to their work stations. With most businesses closed, including post offices, essential personnel are mostly first responders.

This storm was now blizzard conditions in much of the state. Interstate 90 from the Wyoming border to Chamberlain-Oacoma remains closed. Other highways are posted for no travel advisories. Flooding in south central and southeast South Dakota now includes water covering not only some roads, but also highways.

It is uncertain when many roads will be reopened.