SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Eastern South Dakota is in for a mixed bag of weather today and into tomorrow as a winter storm with several days of lasting power hits the state.

Ice is predicted for the northeastern part of the state. KELOLAND meteorologist Brian Karstens said Watertown, Milbank, Sisseton and Webster are among the towns that will see freezing rain starting Monday. As much as a quarter inch of ice and enough wind to cause power outages could fall in the region, Karstens said.

Road conditions throughout eastern and northeastern South Dakota were listed as slippery with scattered ice or mainly slippery as of 4:30 p.m., according to the South Dakota Department of Transportation’s 511 website.

The South Dakota State Patrol posted a photo of vehicle that left the roadway on its Facebook account at about 4:30 p.m. and urged drivers in the Flandreau, Sioux Falls and Brookings area to use caution while driving.

The South Dakota State Patrol posted this truck that left the roadway near Flandreau around 4:30 p.m.

Preparing for the expected ice, wind

“There’s nothing we can do other than make sure our trucks are all stocked,” said Dave Page, the general manager of Whetstone Valley Energy Cooperative in Milbank. The cooperative serves 3,500 customers in about 1,150 square miles with about 1,450 miles of line, Page said.

Page said as much as a quarter inch of ice is predicted as of this morning, particularly in the western edge of Whetsone’s territory. The service area is roughly Sisseton at the north and Revillo in Deuel County at the south.

“We can deal with snow,” Page said. But the ice, snow and wind combination can cause the biggest problems, he said. Ice build-up and wind can cause galloping in lines as they move up and down in the conditions. Galloping can lead to power outages.

As of 11:15 a.m. Monday, Rick Hartley, the highway superintendent in Codington County, said the county road conditions did not look bad. “There was a little mist that fell earlier so the road is a little damp,” Hartley said.

Hartley said four to eight inches of snow along with ice were predicted for the county. He said he was about to get another weather prediction from the National Weather Service just after 11:15 a.m.

At 4:30 p.m., the South Dakota Department of Transportation’s 511 road condition map showed many of the major routes in northeastern South Dakota with scattered ice and and mostly slippery spots.

This is a section of the state’s 511 road condition map as of 4:30 p.m. on Dec. 12. Major roads from Aberdeen down to Brookings are listed as scattered ice and slipper. The pink blocks with black blocks indicate those conditions.

Ice storm warnings were issued for multiple eastern and northeastern counties including Codington, Deuel, Grant, Roberts and Day.

Just like Whetstone and Codington County, the equipment in the city of Milbank was ready for the weather, said city administrator John Forman.

“It’s varied,” Forman said of the weather forecast. “We’re hopeful that will not get as much ice.”

Forman said the city will respond to whatever conditions arrive.

“We are ready to rock ‘n roll,” Forman said.

Ice accumulation map. KELOLAND Weather graphic.
This is one of two semi-trucks the South Dakota Highway Patrol said on Facebook that jack-knifed on Interstate 29 near the Wilmot exit in the eastern part of the state. South Dakota Highway Patrol photo.

What happens if the power goes out, or will it?

Page said his cooperative’s vehicles are ready if the power does go out but the cooperative has made some changes long before the storm arrived.

Poles have been placed closer together to reduce the long stretches of line that are more vulnerable to wind and ice, Page said.

The Codington-Clark energy cooperative began burying electrical lines 40 years ago, said general manager Dave Eide.

“Eighty-five percent of our lines are buried,” Eide said. “We’ve been preparing for over 40 years.”

The cooperative still has about 300 miles of overhead lines, Eide said. “Overhead lines can still give us trouble.”

Chris Gamber, an owner of County Fair Foods in Watertown, said the worst power outage the grocery story has experienced in the past several years was a “couple of hours” during a winter storm.

The store does not have a generator, Gamber said. The freezers have doors which helps to keep the food frozen. Temperatures are checked regularly and would be checked during an outage.

The city of Watertown has a municipal electric department.

The city of Milbank can operate with its generator, Forman said. But if the power goes out, so does the city’s three traffic lights.

“We’d put up temporary stop signs if that (power out) happens,” Forman said.

The Prairie Lake Healthcare System in Watertown will be running if the power goes out, said Josh Dahl, director of facilities at Prairie Lakes Healthcare System.

“Prairie Lakes Healthcare System is prepared and dedicated to providing the best care possible to patients during conditions that could threaten our regular power sources,” Dahl said in an emailed statement to KELOLAND News. “We have two generator systems that supply power to critical needs, life safety needs, and equipment needs along with other essential needs. It is a very complex system that has been engineered to support the Prairie Lakes infrastructure if the need arises.”

Watches, ice storm warnings and other weather continue

Karstens said that areas of Brookings, Huron and DeSmet were still in a winter storm watch Monday morning.

Sioux Falls remained in a winter weather advisory with a possibility of rain, snow, sleet and freezing rain today and into Tuesday. Karstens said the type of moisture will depend on the temperature.

If the ice storm happens in the Milbank, Sisseton and nearby areas, Page said, Whetstone will try and knock the ice off power lines if it can.

Eide said the Codington-Clark cooperative has been called out numerous times to help restore power to other areas.

Page and Eide said that mutual response would happen this week if other areas of the state needed help because of the storm.

“Our guys live for doing that, working to help somebody get their power back,” Eide said. “It’s really rewarding (to help).”

Any lull would be helpful, Page, Hartley and Forman said.

“The public should be patient,” Hartley said. “If we get freezing rain and snow on top of that, there will be treacherous conditions on the roads.”

That also means the conditions would be treacherous for county snow removal vehicles, Hartley said.

Page said Whetsone posts information about outages on its Facebook page. The cooperative would respond to outages as soon as it is able.

“We will take any opportunity to access a downed power line or repair it,” Page said. Road conditions such as ice, snow and wind are factors to consider in responding, he said

Watches, ice storm warnings and other weather continue

Karstens said the snow is slow-moving with at least one lull on Tuesday. The lull could happen Tuesday night into Wednesday. “How long that lasts, it could be a good 12 hours,” Karstens said this morning. Sioux Falls could see the system weaken as it returns and moves out Thursday into Friday.

Karstens said that areas of Brookings, Huron and DeSmet were still in a winter storm watch Monday morning.

Sioux Falls remained in a winter weather advisory with a possibility of rain, snow, sleet and freezing rain today and into Tuesday. Karstens said the type of moisture will depend on the temperature.

Milbank will focus on keeping emergency routes open during the storm but if there is a break, it can continue to work on other streets, Forman said.

The public needs to be aware of the length of the predicted storm and the changing conditions, Forman said.

School closings

The Arlington School District, just north of Brookings, closed at 12:45 p.m. today.

DeSmet closed at noon.

Clark Schools closed at noon today. Clark is west of Watertown on U.S. Highway 212. Castlewood Schools will close at 1 p.m. Castlewood is south of Watertown.

The Deuel School District in Clear Lake planned to close at 2:30 p.m.

Closings for Monday night and Tuesday continued to be added to the KELOLAND lists of closures and delays.