SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — As of Friday, it’s been a long four days in Murdo.
Make that a long two weeks.
“It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen,” the city’s finance director Krysti Barnes said of last week’s storm and the second storm this week with high winds and bitter cold.
Winds this week of 30 to 40 mph have blown last week’s snow all over the city and nearby highways and Interstate 90. Wind chills have dropped to minus 30, 40 and 50 below in the area.
“We’ve had storms before where people have stayed in the auditorium before,” said Murdo Mayor David Geisler. “But last week, we had 2 to 2 1/2 feet of snow, that’s pretty deep snow with 40 to 50 mph winds this week.”
“With the last two storms, it’s the duration. Usually, they last one or two days. This is the first time I can remember four straight days. We have a huge problem with drifting throughout the county,” Geisler said.
Geisler said the South Dakota National Guard might be able to help with snow issues in the city and the county. Gov. Kristi Noem declared a winter storm emergency on Thursday and said she would activate the National Guard to assist with the storm.
The weather conditions and the closure of I-90 and several nearby highways forced travelers off the road and into Murdo. About 45 people have stayed in the city and Jones County School’s auditorium. Some have been there for several days.
The city has about 500 available motel rooms during the summer, Geisler said. That includes the Super 8 motel he owns.
By winter, the number of available motel rooms drops to about 125 in town, the mayor said.
“We filled up at 4 p.m. Tuesday,” said Brett Anderson of the Range Country Lodging.
Friday morning, Anderson said, those stranded travelers were hoping the roads would open.
The motel housed stranded travelers for five days the prior week, Anderson said.
Many of the travelers were trying to get somewhere for Christmas, Anderson said.
Still, they were taking the stop in stride, Anderson said.
“Everybody is jolly and doing good,” Anderson said on Friday morning.
Blizzard warnings and other advisories remain for much of the state. All four lanes of Interstate 90 from Wall to the Minnesota border were still closed as of 1:15 p.m. Friday (Dec. 23.)
Community working hard in the snow
Ruth Daum works at Murdo Family Foods.
“We’ve had a lot of people (in) who are traveling and ended up stranded,” Daum said. “We try to help them the best we can.”
Geisler said the community was fortunate the weather broke some for a day or two so that deliveries could be made to local stores.
Barnes and Geisler said the two members of the city crew have been working hard to move snow in the town.
Barnes said various vehicles are stuck in town including a delivery truck.
“One of the issues is, we are running out of places to pile the snow,” Geisler said. “Where do you pile it where you are not creating another problem?”
Motels, businesses and the overall community rallied to support stranded travelers.
Anderson said the Covered Wagon, a local cafe, has been feeding many travelers. They’ve also been using other local businesses.
Geisler said community members brought food to the auditorium. The auditorium has a kitchen so food can be prepared there.
One good thing, since school was canceled, stranded travelers were able to use the food originally planned for school meals, Geisler said.
Motels have also brought extra bedding to the auditorium.
The help is being offered even as locals are still dealing with their own weather issues.
Barnes is working from home because she’s snowed in. Daum said a person connected to the grocery store was dealing with frozen pipes. Geisler was addressing the water problem at his motel on Friday.
Anderson said the motel was originally scheduled to be closed from Dec. 23 to Dec. 27. But, it’s fine, he said, since he lives in Murdo he’s already home for Christmas.
“We will survive this. We’re hardy people,” Geisler said.
But, locals also have some advice for travelers and would-be travelers this week and throughout this winter.
Motorists need to use common sense. Stay off closed roads and don’t travel when no travel is advised and watch the weather and road conditions.
“We’ve had to do some rescue missions because people aren’t being smart,” Geisler said. “Don’t risk it.”