SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — KELOLAND meteorologists have predicted a possible 10 to 16 inches of snow for the Sioux Falls area for Jan. 2 through Jan. 4.
Meteorologist Brian Karstens said it’s possible the city could get 15 inches by Wednesday (Jan. 4) evening. That’s based on one weather model.
By noon on Jan. 3, the city was approaching 12 inches of snow.
When 12 inches falls over two days, many aspects of daily life grind to a halt. Sioux Falls schools have closed. Businesses, medical clinics and other employers were closed at the start of the day or closed early today.
Sioux Falls Police said people should avoid travel on Tuesday. The snow is packing streets and multiple vehicle were getting stuck. Also, road crews in the city and counties were trying to take care of emergency routes.
What equipment is available in the counties of Lincoln, Minnehaha and the city of Sioux Falls is available to move all that snow?
Minnehaha County has 18 standard tandem axle plow trucks, two 6 x 6 all-wheel drive plow trucks, said Steve Groen, the highway superintendent. Groen said in an email to KELOLAND News that the county also has five V-plows and two of those are mounted on the 6 x 6 trucks. Two more are mounted on the graders and one is mounted on a wheel loader. The county has six diesel blowers. Two are used on loaders. It was one ribbon blower and one truck-mounted blower.
Lincoln County has 14 trucks and two motor graders for snow removal, according to the county’s website.
The city of Sioux Falls has 56 snowplows that are sanders trucks with plows, said city street manager Dustin Hansen.
The city also had 40 leased or rented motor graders that are used on residential streets, Hansen said. Another 11 graders are available from contractors.
Sioux Falls has six large snow blowers that are used to pick up snow in the downtown area and boulevards. Those are attached to wheel loaders, Hansen said. The city has eight wheel loaders it can use and four of those are rented and another four are used across the city.
Pennington County’s highway department dealt with 14 inches of snow in some parts of the county on Dec. 15 and Dec. 16.
“Our snow equipment looks a little different than other counties,” said county official Joe Miller.
The county is 110 miles long from east to west and the weather can be different in those 110 miles, he said.
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The county includes the Badlands, land in the Cheyenne River area as well as the unincorporated residential area of Rapid Valley.
The county has five snowblowers, said Miller. It has three to four road graders.
“We have two other V-plows for busting big drifts,” Miller said. “We have a fleet of smaller trucks.”
Pennington County also has two pickups it uses to clean residential streets in Rapid Valley, he said.
Rapid City has about 50 to 60 pieces of equipment for snow removal, said Dale Pfeifle, the city’s street manager.
Is there more equipment than 10 or 20 years ago?
“Our equipment and operator numbers are the same as they were 20 years ago,” Groen said in an email.
Sioux Falls has added equipment in the past 10 years, Hansen said. “Ten years ago we had less than 20 motor graders,” he said.
Between those owned or rented and contracts, the city has more than 50 available, he said.
“In the next four or five years, we will be in that 60 range between leased and contracted out,” Hansen said.
Thirty years ago, Rapid City has roughly eight snowplows and three bladers, Pfeifle said. “Now we have seven blades and close to 50 plus trucks…,” he said.
Hansen said it’s tough to compare equipment from city to city or county to county. Even to compare it to 10 or 20 years ago.
Generally, today’s equipment is larger and more efficient, the city and county officials said.
Departments have upgraded equipment to include wing blades and getting dump trucks with sand and salt spreaders and attaching plows to the front of trucks.
Pfeifle said Rapid City has also upgraded its street treatment to a salt brine mix which is more efficient and better for the environment.
While all officials said they have budgets that include the money to upgrade snow removal equipment, adding equipment can still be challenging.
“Getting more equipment entails getting more employees and that may be hard to find,” Miller said.
The state continues to have a very low unemployment rate.
Even finding contractors to help with snow removal has gotten tougher, Hansen said.
Public governments will use contractors to help with snow removal, especially when there is a large or prolonged snowfall. It can be more efficient than hiring additional staff because snow amounts and storms will vary from year to year.
“Three years ago, we had 24 contractors. This year I have 11,” Hansen said.