State of emergency: Thousands still without power in S.D.

MITCHELL, S.D. -- Now in a state of emergency, thousands of South Dakotans who saw their holiday lights turn off from the weekend storm are still waiting for power to return.


MITCHELL, S.D. - Now in a state of emergency, thousands of South Dakotans who saw their holiday lights turn off from the weekend storm are still waiting for power to return.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard issued an executive order Tuesday, Dec. 27, declaring all of South Dakota in a state of emergency following the Christmas Day storm that brought electrical power outages and shut down a majority of Interstate 90.

“Every part of South Dakota was impacted in some way by this holiday storm,” Gov. Daugaard said. “If it was not heavy snow, it was freezing rain and high winds. Many South Dakotans and visitors had to change their Christmas plans because of the storm’s impact.”

The declaration means state government technical resources and out-of-state crews be made available to support county governments in efforts to restore normalcy.

That includes getting power back to the 19,000 people who lost electricity from the storm. As of Tuesday morning, 14,000 were still without power, according to South Dakota Rural Electric Association. The hardest-hit areas were in the northern and northeastern parts of South Dakota.


The association said that 25 workers from Iowa and 10 workers from Minnesota began arriving at the hardest-hit cooperatives Tuesday. That's in addition to 40 workers from eight in-state cooperatives who started arriving at five hard-hit cooperatives Monday.

South Dakota Rural Electric Association said it could take several days before power is restored everywhere.

Central Electric Cooperative in Mitchell sent two, two-man crews Monday to areas that needed assistance, including the Ipswich and Webster areas.

Ice, wind and even lightning affected members across Central Electric’s service territory on Christmas Day, the company said. Approximately 75 Central Electric members experienced an outage, with affected members north of Chamberlain, near Howard and near Woonsocket.

“As of (Tuesday) morning, we only are aware of four poles that were broken due to wind, frost or lightning,” Central Electric Operations Manager Brian Bultje said, “and also about four wire breaks, a couple wire floaters, one tree going through the line and one meter loop connection issue.”

Most of the ice was formed when rain fell Sunday from a thunderstorm that drenched some areas of South Dakota.

According to the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, several towns set records Sunday for most precipitation on Dec. 25. That includes Sioux Falls at 1.23 inches, Sioux City, Iowa, at 1.09 inches and Howard at 0.56 inches of precipitation.

The Howard area also saw a bolt of lightning that damaged a power line in the northern part of Miner County near Highway 25.


“It’s very fortunate we didn’t have anyone in harm’s way,” an official with the Miner County Sheriff’s Office said Tuesday.

Mitchell received .52 inches of rain on Sunday, and then the wind howled Sunday night into Monday. The Weather Service reported a 64 mph wind gust early Monday morning in Mitchell, while the highest recorded wind gust from the storm was 72 mph in Yankton.

“It’s pretty rare that you get lightning, thunderstorms, with a storm like this in December in southeastern South Dakota,” said Phil Schumacher, a Weather Service meteorologist.

Motorists finally were able to travel across I-90 on Monday after portions of the interstate were closed Sunday into Monday. Blizzard conditions forced the closure from the Wyoming border to Chamberlain.

The South Dakota Department of Public Safety said some motorists were stranded overnight as several semis and vehicles slid off the road and into the ditch.

Only one injury-crash due to weather was reported to Public Safety. A two-vehicle crash occurred at about 10:10 p.m. Monday on U.S. Highway 18 near Menno that left 27-year-old Toby Devries, of Scotland, with life-threatening injuries. After being transported by ambulance to the Freeman hospital, Devries was later airlifted to Sioux Falls. Two occupants in the other vehicle sustained serious, non-life threatening injuries.  

Schumacher said South Dakotans can expect better weather ahead, though, with the exception of South Dakota’s typical wind.

He said temperatures should warm up to the mid- to upper-30s this week in Mitchell with winds gusting 30 to 35 mph Wednesday night through Thursday.

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