‘We are not kidding': Officials advise of dangerous, impossible travel during extended blizzard
“If you are unable to travel in the storm, so are first responders, plow drivers, and tow companies," the Minnehaha County Sheriff's Office said. "Please plan ahead now to stay off the roadways.”
SIOUX FALLS — As a significant blizzard is beginning to bear down on much of the Upper Midwest, weather authorities and law enforcement agencies are urging the public to heed their warnings throughout the multi-day event.
The National Weather Service in Sioux Falls has issued a blizzard warning for most of eastern South Dakota, to go in effect from noon Wednesday until noon Thursday. A winter weather advisory precedes the blizzard warning now until noon Wednesday.
Forecasters are calling for a two-part storm. The first shot of snow, which has already started falling in and around Sioux Falls, is expected to drop up to 1 inch of snow Tuesday morning and afternoon, with an overnight transition to rainfall.
On Wednesday, the forecasters expect temperatures to drop below freezing, bringing an additional 9 to 14 inches of powdery snow to the area. Snow can be expected to continue falling until roughly 9 a.m. Thursday.
Wind speeds of nearly 50 mph will begin to kick up during the early morning hours of Wednesday, with sustained winds remaining above 35 mph until roughly 9 a.m. Thursday. As the snow subsides and winds begin to die down on Thursday morning, wind chills as low as 30 below are expected Thursday evening until Friday morning.
Heavy amounts of snowfall mixed with high winds are expected to make travel treacherous or impossible, leading area first responders to warn residents of the dangers of travel during a potentially historic snowfall.
The main source of concern lies with the ability of first responders to reach stranded travelers. In a Tuesday morning tweet, the Minnehaha Sheriff’s Office asked residents to plan to stay off the roadways, as becoming stranded could become a “life-threatening event.”
“With heavy snowfall, subzero temps, and strong winds travel will be dangerous. County roadways may become impassable Wednesday afternoon through Friday,” the Minnehaha County Sheriff’s Office tweeted. “If you are unable to travel in the storm, so are first responders, plow drivers, and tow companies. Please plan ahead now to stay off the roadways.”
If you become stranded in this storm this will be a life-threatening event. If you are unable to travel in the storm, so are first responders, plow drivers, and tow companies. Please plan ahead now to stay off the roadways.— Minnehaha Sheriff (@MinnehahaCounty) February 21, 2023
Though snowfall totals are expected to dissipate to the south of Sioux Falls, the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office shared a similar message to their Facebook post.
“This will be a 3–4 day event with totals up to 12 inches. … Travel on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday may be difficult,” the agency’s post reads. “It may become a ‘stay at home and make Hamburger Helper storm,’ not a ‘drive to town and get tacos storm.’”
The South Dakota Department of Public Safety, who oversees the state’s highway patrol, advised that if travel becomes necessary, a winter safety kit should be included in any vehicles in case travelers become stranded.
This is a “we are not kidding” storm. Snow, cold and high winds already are being reported in SD — and more is on the way tonight and Wednesday. Travel will be impacted. Stay home if you can. If you MUST travel, pack a winter safety kit in your vehicle. #keepSDsafe pic.twitter.com/vLM8ECdbdN— SDPublicSafety (@SDPublicSafety) February 21, 2023
The National Weather Service said must-have items for a winter safety kit include blankets and warm clothing, water and snacks, kitty litter or sand, road flares, snow and ice removal tools, an extra cell phone charger and more.
The latest information regarding weather warnings can be found on the National Weather Service’s website, while road closure information can be found on the website for South Dakota 511.