As the two-day blizzard abated Thursday, leaving 10 inches of new and wet snow in record snowfall for each day, Pierre and Fort Pierre began digging out and cleaning up. By late Thursday afternoon, the cities seemed to have come to life after a short, frozen hibernation.
About 10 p.m., Thursday, Tony Mangan, state public safety spokesman, said Gov. Kristi Noem ordered state government offices to open Friday morning at the regular time in 17 counties that were closed Wednesday and Thursday, and open at noon in the other counties that closed offices for the blizzard.
Noem on Wednesday ordered most state government offices closed across the state.
About 9 p.m., Thursday, Pierre city spokeswoman Brooke Bohnenkamp announced the no-travel advisory had been lifted in town, but the snow emergency remained in place. (It's worth noting many people were traveling around town by mid-afternoon, Thursday.)
"Snow plow operations will continue into the evening and resume again early tomorrow morning," she said in a news release. "The city snow plow operators are working to clear emergency snow routes and to make a single pass through each residential street by 8 a.m., Friday. Plowing is not complete on all city streets and travel may be difficult for low-profile vehicles. Drivers are advised to slow down and travel with care."
Park with care, too, she said: "The Emergency Snow Alert remains in effect. People are reminded to avoid parking on Emergency Snow Routes (mainly the main thoroughfares) and to use off-street parking when possible."
It was a record snowfall for each of the dates March 13 and March 14 in Pierre, going back to at least 1893 when the National Weather Service records began.
Nobody was complaining that the snow totals didn't hit the upper range of weather service forecasts of as much as 19 inches in the community as late as Wednesday.
By early afternoon Thursday, legions of people using shovels, snowblowers, plows and loaders were moving snow from driveways, sidewalks, streets and highways as the two cities began to feel unfrozen. Temperatures went above freezing, skies were blue and the sun was warm, but the northerly winds remained maddeningly high, pushing even the heavy, wet snow back on plowed roadways.
Snowdrifts as tall as street signs, buried Buicks, an army of plows pushing as much snow as they can, wherever they can.
The 5.5 inches of snow that fell on Wednesday on Pierre and Fort Pierre is the most snow on any March 13 going back at least to 1893, said Aaron Dye, of the National Weather Service office in Aberdeen. The previous record for March 13 in Pierre was 2.7 inches of snow in 1952, Dye said.
By 7 a.m., Thursday, another 4.5 inches had fallen, which also is a record for the date, March 14, Dye said. If any snow fell after 7 a.m., Thursday, of course the new record will swell, he said.
That brings snowfall for Pierre and Fort Pierre to a total of about 50 inches for the season, which is double the normal snowfall for a season, but well short of the record 81.2 inches that fell here in the winter of 1951-1952, he said. Weather service snowfall records for the state go back to 1893.
This storm’s 10 inches of snow was wetter than normal, producing 1 inch of water from each 8 inches of snow, according to Dye. It meant for heavy sledding and shoveling, but also kept the snow from drifting as much dry snow would have.
The largest snowfall in the state for this two-day event was 18.3 inches at Kadoka, which is just on the east edge of the Badlands National Park, on Interstate 90, about 90 miles southwest of Fort Pierre.
Aberdeen received only 3.7 inches of snow, partly because it also got rain, Dye said.
The temperature was right for snow to turn to glassy ice under turning tires, making it easy for vehicles to quickly dig a depression and get stuck.
Good Samaritans seem to be roaming town, offering to pull out vehicles stuck in icy pits dug by spinning wheels, as much as by drifts of snow.
Two travelers who arrived in Pierre just with the first hours of the storm on Wednesday tried unsuccessfully Thursday afternoon to find a way out of Pierre and Fort Pierre, trying every road they could.
"I think we're stuck in this town," Zach Benenhaley said with a grin to a Capital Journal reporter as he stopped before drifted over Highway 1806 north of Fort Pierre. He and Shilah Benenhaley said they would spend another night in a hotel before continuing on their return to their Springfield, Missouri, home.
Meanwhile, Kathleen Griggs donned snowshoes to take her dog, Maggie, for a walk through downtown Pierre as a blue, sunny sky made the new snow blindingly bright and temperatures moved above freezing.
The blizzard meant long hours of toil for public employees charged with getting and keeping streets and roads clear of snow, early impossible as winds around 60 mph blew out of the north.
Shannon Crawford was working late Thursday afternoon keeping a Fort Pierre snowplow truck serviced, without much rest for 24 hours or more. There still were roads and streets to plow, he said. And the winds kept filling them in with wet snow and slush.
It appeared restaurants were closed Thursday, until late in the afternoon, when Hardee's opened to a long line of drive-in customers. Grocery stores and convenience stores did not open, with perhaps one or two exceptions.
The Walmart store in Pierre was open by mid-afternoon, Thursday.
Domino's Pizza in Pierre was open by late Thursday afternoon.
By early afternoon, Thursday, the two cities were coming out of the snow and fighting it, with homeowners trying to clear sidewalks and public employees quickly moving snow from streets, roads and parking lots, although city, county, state and federal offices mostly remained closed until Friday.
These counties were slated late Thursday to open Friday, March 15, at regular morning times, usually 8 a.m., Mangan said in a news release: Bon Homme, Butte, Clay, Custer, Douglas, Fall River, Harding, Hutchinson, Lawrence, Lincoln, McCook, Meade, Minnehaha, Pennington, Turner, Union and Yankton.
In about 30 other counties, including Hughes, Stanley and Sully, state offices -- usually in county courthouses -- were to open at noon on Friday.
Here's a photo gallery of the digging out and cleaning up Thursday, March 14, from the record-setting blizzard.