Christmas Day storm blankets area, causes outages
Wed, 01/04/2017 - 3:54pm admin
A forecasted Christmas Day storm changed plans for residents across South Dakota and continues to affect many residents even into the new year.
Travel was not advised across much of western South Dakota Sunday, Dec. 25, as myriad weather conditions, including thundersnow, lightning strikes, freezing rain, heavy snow and wind combined to cause poor travel conditions.
Despite the warnings, though, many people attempted travel, and the emergency radio bands were filled Monday morning with state, county, and city law enforcement and emergency response teams being dispatched to rescue people who had attempted travel despite the travel advisories and road closures.
Locally, Pennington County and Meade County road crews were called into action despite a scheduled day off for the day after Christmas. Though crews around New Underwood maintained power to their shops and were able to use adequately warmed equipment for snow removal, crews even a few miles north of town were without power and had to use generators or propane heaters to ready their equipment. Calls came in across the area for help getting aid in to area residents who were without backup heat sources or in rescuing drivers who had attempted to take the New Underwood Road on Christmas and had become stranded overnight.
Further east in Pennington County, freezing rain and drizzle that fell ahead of the wind caused slippery conditions that persisted throughout the week, making even gravel roads impassable in some places.
West River Electric Association lineman crews, as well as other Rural Electric Association crews, responded quickly after residents throughout the area lost power Christmas evening. Power was restored to most residents within 48 hours of the electricity being lost, though some areas in eastern South Dakota were still without power as late as Friday, Dec. 30.
According to Brenda Kleinjan, director of communications and member relations at the South Dakota Rural Electric Associations, deep snow in the western side of the state and heavy ice on the eastern side of the state continue to hamper efforts at full recovery of power across the state. These conditions also cause concern that the snow, cold and winds forecast for the early part of 2017 could cause more lines to go down and more subsequent power outages.
Power and road crews continued to work throughout the week to get power lines and roads stabilized as people continued to travel for the New Year holiday.
For area ranchers, the storm brought complications with feed and water systems for their livestock. Haystacks were difficult to reach in many cases, water tanks were drifted over, and floats on tanks were frozen. Producers who were unable to use generators in their shops were forced to cold start their feeding vehicles, causing undue wear on their equipment.
By the start of 2017, though, most of these problems had been resolved. Now the New Underwood area is readying for another seasonal cold snap before a much-anticipated January Thaw at the middle of the month.