Custer, Hills buried in snow
Published: Thursday, April 18th, 2013
A spring snowstorm that brought record amounts of snow to parts of the Hills dumped between 10 and 20 inches of snow on Custer County last Monday into early Wednesday, closing schools, businesses and government offices. The storm started slowly Monday night, but gained momentum Tuesday, dumping most of its snow that day.
City crews worked overnight last Wednesday night to remove the large piles and windrows of snow from downtown Custer. The sun broke through for a bit, although it was still chilly Thursday morning.
According to the National Weather Service, Tuesday was the snowiest day ever recorded at Rapid City Regional Airport and the fifth snowiest in downtown Rapid City. The airport received 25 inches of snow. There was 30 inches of snow in Deadwood, 28 in Hot Springs and 19 in Spearfish.
“It’s been a while since it snowed like that,”âï¿½ï¿½said city public works director Bob Morrison. “There was quite a bit of snow. It’s a lot easier for us to (remove snow) at night. It’s quicker and safer for everybody.”
Mike Carter, Custer County’s emergency management director, said it was business as usual in the county, saying there are always some problems when there are high winds and large amounts of snow, but overall things went well. If the ambulance was dispatched, Carter said, it was accompanied to make sure it got where it was headed.
Custer County Sheriff Rick Wheeler also said it was a fairly normal couple of days, with nothing major and only a few cars venturing into the ditch during the storm.
“Iâï¿½ï¿½think a lot of people stayed off the roadways,”âï¿½ï¿½he said.âï¿½ï¿½“It wasn’t bad at all.”
The eastern part of the county got it the worst, as up to 20 inches of snow in the Hermosa and Fairburn area was accompanied by strong winds, which made travel treacherous and even closed some roads.
County highway superintendent Gary Woodford said county crews spent all day April 10 blading in the eastern part of the county, only to see the wind blow it back onto the roads, closing County Road 656 as well as Spring Creek Cutoff.
“They were really fighting it over there,”âï¿½ï¿½he said.
Last Thursday, Woodford said all of the county’s resources were concentrated on plowing roads in the eastern part of the county, including five blades with V-plows, and had plow trucks working with them. The western part of the county, he said, was fairly easy to take care of after the storm since there was no wind.
The storm closed the Custer Clinic and Custer School District schools for two days and closed the Custer County Courthouse Wednesday. Driver’s license exams were cancelled Wednesday and the Custer County Commission meeting was postponed two days until last Friday. The storm also delayed mail delivery in town.
Kevin Murphy, manager of Lynn’s Dakotamart, said the store saw a surge in business right before the storm, as is usually the case when a winter storm warning is issued.
“People do like to get in and make sure they have enough food items in case they can’t get out,”âï¿½ï¿½he said.
Since the storm, Murphy said the biggest problem is getting trucks to the store for products, since the storm closed stretches of I-90 through last Thursday morning.
Custer School District superintendent Scott Lepke said he made the call to close the two school days after seeing the forecast for the storm.
“The main thought process is the safety of the students and staff,”âï¿½ï¿½he said.âï¿½ï¿½“I am going to err on the side of safety each time I make the decision. It is difficult with the rural schools. It could be just fine in Custer, but measurably different in Hermosa, Fairburn or Spring Creek.”
The district will make up both days it missed. There was already a scheduled snow day May 3, and May 10 will be added as a make-up day.
While the wet snow reduced the fire danger in the Black Hills National Forest, the area is not out of danger or drought. Carter said the storm will provide short-term relief, but will have no bearing on what happens two months down the road.
“It’s definitely a wait-and-see situation,”âï¿½ï¿½he said.
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