PIERRE, S.D (KELO AM). – State Transportation and Public Safety officials have a simple message today (Saturday) for anyone considering traveling toward or through western South Dakota: “Please Stay Put Today.’’
Snow continues to fall and strong winds continue to create white-out conditions across much of the state west of the Missouri River as a strong fall storm moves through the area. Those conditions, which forced the closure of Interstate 90 from Murdo to the Wyoming border on Friday, are making it nearly impossible for maintenance crews to make headway in opening roads. Officials say it will be late Saturday at best before any significant progress is made, and residents should be prepared to delay any travel in western South Dakota until Sunday.
“This storm literally slammed much of western South Dakota,’’ said Trevor Jones, secretary of Public Safety. “Conditions are unlikely to improve throughout the day Saturday. Folks east of the river could be deceived, because they see rain and wet roads. Out west, you can hardly see the roads.’’
Jones also said officials understand the storm is a major inconvenience to many.
“We want people to understand that resources are focused on emergencies at this time,’’ he said. “If you feel you are in an emergency situation, please call 911. To avoid becoming an emergency, please just stay home today.’’
Interstate 90 remains closed from Murdo to the Wyoming line, and virtually all secondary roads in western South Dakota are blocked or nearly impassable. Maintenance crews are struggling to keep snowplows and other equipment from becoming stuck, and utility workers face the same conditions as they try to reach downed power lines to restore power to some Black Hills residents.
A number of stranded or abandoned vehicles on the interstate and other highways, as well as power lines, trees, branches and other debris on highways in western South Dakota, create additional obstacles for snowplows and emergency crews.
“It’s simply going to take time and a lot of work to get our highways open again,’’ said Darin Bergquist, secretary of Transportation. “We really need people to be patient. In much of western South Dakota this Saturday, there’s no place to go even if you do get out of your driveway and onto your street. Give the crews time to do their work, please.’’
Bergquist said DOT is shifting additional resources from the eastern part of the state to work the storm, but the movement of those resources is being slowed by poor visibility and snow-packed roads.
As progress is made on road openings, updates will be announced through media releases and will be made available at www.safetravelusa.com/sdand on the 511 call system.