PIERRE, S.D. (KELO-AM) – State officials are cautioning travelers that heavy snow, strong winds, below zero temperatures and dangerous wind chills could create hazardous travel conditions, with near-zero visibility, throughout much of South Dakota for the rest of today (Tuesday) and through Wednesday evening.
The National Weather Service has issued a winter storm warning for most of South Dakota and says the brunt of the winter storm is shifting more to the southeast, where the heaviest snow will begin around midnight. Winds will increase at that time to as much as 30-40 mph through Wednesday. Those conditions will be centered along the Interstate 90 corridor between Chamberlain to Sioux Falls and the Interstate 29 corridor between Watertown and Sioux Falls.
Much of the northwest part of the state already has experienced snowfall of as much as five to 10 inches. Winds have increased through the afternoon and are expected to reach 20-40 mph tonight and tomorrow, creating dangerous wind chills.
As the snow diminishes through the day on Wednesday, temperatures will continue to fall. Combined with the strong winds, that could create dangerous wind chills and life-threatening conditions for anyone caught in the open. Even in areas of the state where the snowfall is less heavy, actual temperatures and wind-chill readings well below zero are expected.
This weather combination will create hazardous driving conditions, including near zero visibility at times. Roads are already snow covered and slippery in many areas and conditions will continue to deteriorate during the overnight hours. Drivers can also expect drifting snow, especially in sheltered areas and at the ends of bridges.
Travelers should be alert to changing conditions and be prepared to adjust travel plans if necessary.
“This is a significant winter storm that is going to make travel extremely difficult at times throughout much of the state overnight and through Wednesday,” says Transportation Secretary Darin Bergquist. “Conditions will deteriorate rapidly as the storm moves through South Dakota and people should make plans to stay put or extend their stay until it is safe to travel.”
People who must travel should drive with extreme caution and are encouraged to visit www.safetravelusa.com/sd or dial 511 to check the latest road conditions and travel advisories before heading out.
Motorists are reminded that SDDOT crews will maintain roads until early evening hours as conditions allow. After that, winter maintenance will be suspended and resume early the next morning, weather permitting.
If you must travel, the departments of Transportation and Public Safety recommend travelers also take the following steps.
- Wear your seatbelt.
- Travel during the day.
- Drive with your headlights on (not daytime running lights) so you can be seen by other motorists from the front and rear.
- Use highly traveled roads and highways.
- Keep family and friends informed of your travel schedule and route.
- Call 511 or visit safetravelusa.com for road conditions.
- Keep a winter weather survival kit in your car. The kit should include blankets, warm clothing, water, energy bars, a flashlight, a distress flag, a shovel and matches.
- Travel with a charged cell phone, but don’t rely on it to get you out of a bad situation.
- Change travel plans as weather conditions warrant.
If you do get stranded:
- Stay in your vehicle.
- Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes an hour to stay warm.
- When the engine is running, open a window slightly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Periodically clearing snow from the exhaust pipe will also help prevent carbon monoxide buildup.
- When it’s dark outside, turn on the interior light so rescuers can see you.
- Put up a distress flag, or spread a large colored cloth on the ground to attract attention from rescuers.
Sign up for road closures, no travel advisories and flooding information at www.safetravelusa.com/sd and click on the CP icon in the upper right-hand corner.