UPDATED at 9:30 p.m.
Gov. Kristi Noem announced early Wednesday that state government offices in 39 counties in central and western South Dakota, including Stanley, Hughes and Sully, would be closed for the day because of the blizzard and floods forecasted.
For what it's worth, just before 8 p.m., Wednesday, the National Weather Service cranked down the top end of the snowfall forecast to 16 inches for Hughes, Stanley and Sully counties for the two-day story, from earlier forecasts of up to 18 inches across the region.
Just before 9 p.m., Wednesday, Pierre City Administrator Kristi Honeywell announced city offices would be closed Thursday, March 14, because of the storm.
City garbage collection scheduled for Thursday will be done on Friday, Honeywell said in a news release.
The city is not declaring a snow alert, but Honeywell asked people to avoid parking on main routes to make it easier for city crews to clear snow off the main, or snow emergency, routes.
By late afternoon, Wednesday, March 13, several inches of snow had fallen on Pierre and Fort Pierre making travel difficult. By about 6:20 p.m., officials announced that heavy rains Wednesday had caused "significant flooding" in southeast and south-central parts of the state, mostly south of Interstate 90. Many roads had been closed and it was expected to get worse by Thursday and local and state officials were trying to mark and close flooded roads and asking the public's help to report flooding, according to Kristi Sandal, spokeswoman for the state DOT.
By Wednesday night, vehicles were getting stuck on Pierre’s hilly streets as snow piled up, according to police radio calls.
State and local officials warned people from any travel.
The state Capitol in Pierre was mostly empty Wednesday after lawmakers met until 3 a.m. to hasten the session's end before the blizzard hit.
From 5 inches to 19 inches of snow is expected to fall across the region, with winds gusting around 60 mph, with icy rain are expected Wednesday and Thursday, according to the National Weather Service. Travel will become dangerous and even impossible in much of the state, with the heaviest snow expected in a diagonal band about 70 miles wide from Murdo most of the way northeast toward Aberdeen, with Pierre and Fort Pierre in the deep center of it.
By about 1 p.m., Wednesday, a wet snow had begun falling in Pierre.
About 2 p.m., state officials closed Interstate 90 from Wall to Chamberlain, eastbound and westbound lanes, a stretch of 153 miles crossing the Missouri River, according to DOT spokeswoman Sandal.
DOT closed the 110 miles of I-90 from Wall west to the Wyoming border by 5 p.m., CST, Sandal said. That means 260 miles, or nearly two-thirds of I-90's 410 miles across the state, were shut down by Wednesday evening.
Flooding over roads has been reported in southeast and south-central parts of the state and could worsen quickly, according to a news release from Sandal
State DOT snowplows have been out on highways since 4 a.m. but may be pulled later today, Sandal said Wednesday afternoon.
A U.S. Post Office official said the Post Office in Pierre was open Wednesday and probably would be Thursday but that the situation may change.
Pierre Mayor Steve Harding closed city offices. On Tuesday evening during the City Commission meeting, it was announced that School Superintendent Kelly Glodt announced the rare closing of school for Wednesday and Thursday in Pierre.
Stanley County schools in Fort Pierre are closed through Thursday.
The counties in which state government offices were closed Wednesday were Beadle, Bennet, Brown, Brule, Buffalo, Buett, Campbell, Charles Mix, Corson, Custer, Dewey, Edmunds, Fall River, Faulk, Gregory, Haakon, Hand, Harding, Hughes, Hyde, Jackson, Jerauld, Jones, Lawrence, Lyman, McPherson, Meade, Mellette, Oglala Lakota, Pennington, Perkins, Potter, Spink, Stanley, Sully, Tripp, Todd, Walworth and ZIebach.
“Only essential personnel within state offices in those counties should report to their work stations,” said Tony Mangan, spokesman for the state Department of Public Safety, in a news release announcing Noem’s decision.
Further closings might be announced depending on conditions, including whether officers will be closed also on Thursday, according to Mangan.
On Wednesday morning about 11:30 a.m., the weather service issued a blizzard warning for central and western South Dakota, saying 18 inches to 24 inches could fall across western parts of the state into Wyoming, with 10 to 20 inches expected for the Rapid City area and winds gusting up to 65 mph.
Through Hughes, Stanley and Sully counties, 10 to 18 inches is expected, the weather service said just before noon Wednesday, about an hour before snow began falling.
Travel will be dangerous, even impossible, with icy roads and drifting snow and high winds, the weather service said.
The Stanley County Highway Department has also urged all residents to stay off county roads until further notice. "The fewer people out and about, the better," Stanley County Auditor Philena Burtch said.
Burtch said the roads will be difficult to clear due to the volume of snow that had already accumulated over the winter. "Our road ditches are already full; there's nowhere for the new snow to go," she said.
Mangan urged people to call 511 to get the most recent road conditions.
The blizzard warning, which means snow, blowing snow and strong winds will create dangerous whiteout conditions, is in effect until about 1 a.m., Friday.
Due to the weather, Avera Urgent Care services in Pierre were closed 5 - 7 p.m. on Wednesday. Sigrid Wald, a spokesperson for Avera Medical Group, told the Capital Journal the decision to suspend after-hours urgent care was made just before 4:30 p.m.
Avera St. Mary's Hospital facilities, including the emergency room, remained open, she said. "Everything else is running as is."
County offices in the Hughes County Courthouse will be closed on Thursday March 14 due to the weather, County Manager Kevin Hipple told the Capital Journal on Wednesday. Hipple urged everyone to stay safe and avoid driving until the blizzard abated.
(Capital Journal reporters David Byrnes and Del Bartels contributed to this report.)