Note: This story has been updated with an interview about a couple who have been snowed-in Aberdeen for more than a week.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The flags on the poles at the Brown County Highway Department were mostly still Wednesday morning.
That hasn’t happened often during the winter of 2022-2023.
“It’s a bit unrelenting,” county highway superintendent Dirk Rogers said of the winter.
The wind has been the big factor in the unrelenting winter, Rogers said.
“It’s nice today, the flags are almost still,” Rogers said. “But at the same time, we had to send out a special three-person crew this morning to open up a road near Manchester. All of that happened overnight because of the wind.”
The wind has been shifty. It will blow from the north and then, blow from the south. Sometimes in the same day, Rogers said. “It adds a significant challenge,” he said.
Lora Schaunaman and her husband Neil have been snowed in Aberdeen since Monday, March 6.
“We were figuring on three days. That’s how much clothes we brought,” Schaunaman said.
The wind had other ideas as continued to blow across roads they use to get home.
“It doesn’t pay to clean a road if it only stays open a day,” she said. the Schaunamans have split their days between children who live in Aberdeen including a son, Travis, who is the mayor of Aberdeen.
Rogers said the terrain in Brown County makes it ripe for the wind. The wind speed does not need to be very high to create problems.
“We’ve got such a huge area. We have little restrictions to block the wind…,” Rogers said.
The wind can change road and weather conditions quickly.
Rogers said he was driving south after work and then, turned into a different direction on another county’s road and hit slick, compacted snow that had been blown in the wind.
The weather and possibility of changing conditions were enough for a musical group to cancel a planned March 21 concert a week in advance.
The Texas Tenors yesterday canceled a Tuesday, March 21, concert with the Aberdeen University-Civic Symphony in Aberdeen, because of weather concerns. The concert was canceled a week in advance and so far, the weather forecast for Aberdeen does not indicate bad weather.
“Some of us are flying in and out of Sioux Falls and some driving from Kansas and Minnesota. We were looking forward to the concert so much, but when we looked at the forecast for the areas where we would be driving and the times of our travel leaving out of Aberdeen, we decided that the best decision to make for everyone’s safety would be to postpone the concert,” Tenor member Marcus Collins said in an email to KELOLAND News.
“I believe the Texas Tenors were being overly precautious by canceling their concert due to weather. Looking at the forecast, I don’t think travel is going to be an issue next week,” Travis Schaunaman said.
The March 21 concert was rescheduled from an original February date.
Travis Schaunaman is well aware of the winter weather. The city needed to use money from the general fund to help cover the costs for snow removal in late 2022. The city’s snow removal budget runs from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31.
“We’re hoping for a lighter winter (in late 2023),” Travis Schaunaman said.
Travis Schaunaman also knows how difficult it has been at times to travel in rural areas this winter.
His parents live 18 miles from Aberdeen.
Lora Schaunaman said they live four miles from the nearest paved road. They’ve been enjoying time with their grandchildren and family, she said. But, it will be good to get back home.
A neighbor with a snowmobile has been checking on their house and feeding the couple’s dog and cat, she said. They are grateful for the neighbors who have been helping each other this winter.
Lora Schaunaman said it’s different to be in the city where it’s easier to get around, as they know they can’t get home yet.
The city of Aberdeen may be more isolated from the wind than rural areas but the city is still pushing snow, Travis Schaunaman said.
Both Schaunaman and Rogers said ice has been another challenging part of the winter.
Rain and freezing rain have created problems, Rogers said.
Each time it does snow, more is added to the piles. And there have not been many days above freezing, he said.
It got warmer on Tuesday but “It was very, very wind so there was not substantial melt off,” Schaunaman said.
And when it does melt, a layer of ice can form on snow piles, he said.
The city completed an expansive infrastructure project after significant flooding about 15 years ago, he said. That flooding was caused by heavy spring rains.
Because of the improvements, the city has fewer concerns about flooding, Schaunaman said. Still, a slow melt would be good, he said.
Until the weather gets warmer and the wind dies down, Aberdeen and Brown County residents are stuck with the unrelenting winter.
“The residents in this area are becoming increasingly unhappy with the snow,” Schaunaman said. “We have had numerous significant snow events during this prolonged winter season and our residents’ yards and boulevards have a lot of standing snow.”
Rogers said fewer people are getting stuck in snow drifts this winter but more people are complaining about the snow and snow removal.
Brown County (1,713) has more square mileage than Rhode Island (1,214), which is a lot of roads to cover, Rogers said. Given the size of the county and the size of the department, the county is doing as well as it can, he said.
Residents may not get a spring break of sorts with a Texas Tenors and symphony concert on March 21, the first day of spring.
But, the Aberdeen University-Civic Symphony performs at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, at the NSU Johnson Fine Arts Center. Winter may be over by then but the signs of it may still be around.
Lora Schaunaman recalled a late 1990s winter when they held their daughter’s graduation party on the outdoor patio. When they looked a photos later they noticed the snow piles in the trees in the background.