Thursday was a ‘white out’ day
Snow alert declared as blizzard causes highway pileups, accidents in Brandon
January 17. 2014 9:24AM
Light snow and strong winds from the north brought white-out conditions to the area on Thursday, causing accidents in the city and multi-car pileups on Interstates 90 and 29.
Most of eastern South Dakota, including Minnehaha and Lincoln counties, was under a blizzard warning until Thursday night. Sustained winds of 30 to 45 mph swept through the area with gusts topping out at 63 mph in Sioux Falls, said Brad Temeyer of the National Weather Service.
Thursday’s winds were the highest recorded since October 2012. Combined with two inches of snow and temperatures near zero, the wind made for dangerous driving.
“As the temperatures started to lower, the roads started freezing up and causing travel issues – in addition to the blowing snow,” Temeyer said.
Sioux Falls authorities began advising people to stay off the roads about 2 p.m. Thursday.
“The snowfall developed about 30 miles farther west than what we expected. We knew the wind was going to be an issue, but it shows you when you get a little bit of snow how treacherous it can get when you have winds this strong,” meteorologist Todd Heitkamp said.
Accident reports pile up
While Sioux Falls Police responded to 70 crashes from 7:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., only four accidents were on Friday’s report from the Brandon Police.
• A one-vehicle accident at South Heritage Road and West Ashton Trail caused $2,500 in damages.
• A two-vehicle accident at the intersection of South Splitrock and South Sioux boulevards resulted in $4,500 in damages, as one of the drivers was cited for failure to yield.
• A two-vehicle accident was reported at West Holly Boulevard and South Arbor Ridge Road that caused $9,600 in damages. Again, one driver was cited for over-driving road conditions.
• And finally a one-vehicle accident was reported at West Holly Boulevard and South Arbor Ridge Road, which resulted in an estimated $700 in damages.
The Highway Patrol and other emergency responders fielded numerous crash calls on Interstates 90 and 29, including a 26-vehicle pileup on I-90 that shut down the westbound lane from Sioux Falls to Salem for more than five hours.
Minnehaha County Emergency Manager Lynn DeYoung, who responded to the accident, said four semis and as many as 22 other cars were involved.
“It was extremely difficult for first responders,” DeYoung said.
“With the visibility next to zero, they had to check every vehicle several times.”
Westbound traffic was redirected onto Highway 38 for several hours while crews worked to clear the roadway, but no one was seriously hurt. Four people were taken to hospitals with non-life threatening injuries, DeYoung said.
“For having terrible weather conditions, it went really well,” DeYoung said.
Numerous crashes were reported on Interstate 29 in the Tea area, including one with as many as a dozen vehicles. Injuries were reported in some of the crashes, but the Highway Patrol reported no fatalities.
Schools closures vary
The Sioux Falls School District canceled all after-school programs except for the elementary child care program Kids Inc., said district spokesman Ben Schumacher.
But the day care program at EmBe downtown stayed open as usual, said Child Care Services Director Karla Johnson.
“It really takes a big storm for us to close,” she said.
“We want everyone to use common sense and drive safe without having to worry about a late fee.”
The Tea Area School District stayed open until parents picked their children up from school as the district’s buses did not run in the afternoon.
“We were heading to an early release, but the Highway Patrol advised us against that,” business manager Kathy Cleveland said.
The Brandon Valley School District sent students home at 1 p.m.
But Harrisburg kept its schools open because they had made the call to run the afternoon buses on schedule before the weather turned.
“Today was one of those terrible timing types of things,” Superintendent Jim Holbeck said. “Once we got the blizzard warning, it was too late to call off school.”
Snow alert issued
Brandon Public Works called a snow alert for the city and began plowing emergency snow routes at 4 a.m. Friday.
Vehicles parked on city streets were ticketed and towed.
Property owners must clear all public sidewalks of ice and snow within 48 hours after the snow stops falling.
Flights canceled, delayed
The Sioux Falls Regional Airport closed during the storm but reopened Thursday evening, although many flights still were delayed.
The airport sent out a message earlier that blowing snow had closed the runway.
Some flights to and from Dallas, Denver and Minneapolis were canceled, while others to Denver and Chicago were delayed.