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EVAN VUCCI, ASSOCIATED PRESS 

President Donald Trump listens during a meeting Tuesday in the Oval Office of the White House.


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Storm brings 10 inches of snow in Rapid City so far

A little winter. A little spring. A dash of summer.

Mix them all together and you get one crazy storm system, perfectly suited for a Friday the 13th arrival date. 

Mother Nature's science experiment exploded Friday, bringing rain, snow and tornadoes to a huge swath of the Great Plains and Midwest, even stretching down into the south.

In Rapid City, what started out as rain late Thursday eventually turned to snow overnight and kept a steady flow of flakes falling throughout the day Friday. 

As of 6 p.m. Friday, downtown Rapid City had accumulated 9.3 inches of snow. 

Blizzard and winter storm warnings were in effect for much of western South Dakota Friday, leading to the closures of many government offices, schools, private businesses and roads.

South Dakota highway officials closed about 280 miles of Interstate 90, from Rapid City to Mitchell, by Friday mid-afternoon because of heavy snow and strong winds that created hazardous driving conditions. 

“Fortunately, we haven’t had the wind,” said Meade County sheriff Ron Merwin, who praised residents for heeding weather warnings and staying off roads, for the most part.

Merwin said he and his deputies were assisting a couple of motorists whose vehicles had slid off Highway 34 east of Sturgis on Friday afternoon. But overall, he said his office hadn't encountered many issues from the storm. 

Merwin was pleased to hear of the weather service downgrading the winter storm warning to an advisory mid-afternoon Friday.

But a snowstorm in April doesn’t seem very surprising given this year’s abnormally cold and snowy winter and spring.

Some of the heaviest snowfall in western South Dakota were recorded in New Underwood (13.5 inches), the Meade County community of Elm Springs (12 inches) and the Perkins County community of Usta (11 inches), according to National Weather Service data as of Friday afternoon.

Martin, meanwhile, looked to fulfill the forecast of getting up to 2 feet of snow, the most in West River. It received 5 inches by late afternoon Friday, but could see up to 18 more inches this morning as the storm continued to move east.

April is historically one of the snowiest months in Rapid City, but this month’s snowfall has already far exceeded the average. Friday’s accumulation puts the month’s total at 18.4 inches, almost four times the usual 4.7 inches in April, according to the weather service.

But Friday's storm doesn’t stand up to the heaviest Rapid City snowstorms recorded in April. On April 22, 2001, the city got dumped with 19.2 inches of snow. And in 2013, 22.4 inches piled up between April 8 and 10.

The area near Winner registered the strongest wind gusts of 58 mph, in line with predictions. In comparison, the peak in Rapid City was around 40 mph.

Friday brought unlucky weather to a wide swath of the Great Plains and Midwest, including blizzard warnings from Kansas to South Dakota and tornado threats from Texas and Lousiana, all the way north to Iowa. 

Gov. Dennis Daugaard closed state government offices in 32 counties ahead of the approaching blizzard. Dozens of school districts canceled classes ahead of the storm. Rapid City had already received 5.5 inches by 10 a.m.

The snow also led officials to shut down the Sioux Falls airport Friday afternoon through tonight.

Weather authorities warned also of driving hazards West River, saying wet roads “may freeze up after sunset.”

PHOTOS: Rapid City gets a snow day

Many roads and highways in western Nebraska also closed — including a 200-mile stretch of Interstate 80 from North Platte west to the Wyoming border. 

The huge storm isn't unprecedented for April, said Jake Beitlich, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Chanhassen, Minn.

"We do get pretty powerful systems coming throughout the Midwest, and on the cold side we do get snow. And this one is particularly strong. So we do have a lot of moisture with it, and a lot of energy," Beitlich said.

While the worst of the storm was expected to peter out Friday evening in Rapid City, further east, snow, freezing rain and high winds were expected through tonight.

A swath of southern Minnesota through northern Wisconsin was expected to get 8 to 12 inches of snow or more. Parts of northern Nebraska could get up to 18 inches, with up to 12 inches in northwestern Iowa. 

The National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Okla., issued tornado watches Friday for eastern Texas and western Louisiana, moving up through eastern Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas and into Missouri and Iowa. The weather service also warned of the potential for thunderstorms, hail and damaging winds for Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and eastern portions of Texas.

Forecasters said Alabama was also at risk for a weekend of severe weather, including winds up to 60 mph and tornadoes through Sunday.

Severe thunderstorms also popped up to the north Friday morning in parts of Wisconsin, Minnesota and South Dakota. Golf ball-sized hail fell in parts of southwestern Wisconsin. Large hail also fell in Parker in southeastern South Dakota, while pea-sized hail fell in nearby Sioux Falls.

Rapid City was expected to get less than an inch more of snow before the storm subsided Friday night.

Temperatures in the city on Friday reached a high of 33, with a low of 15 expected overnight. 

The mercury will rise to the 50s by Monday, so most of the snow should melt that day or on Tuesday, said meteorologist Kyle Carstens.

But that won’t be the end of this seemingly endless winter. More snow is forecast for next week. 

“We’re not completely out of the woods yet,” Carstens said.


Ryan Hermens, Journal staff 

Jay Erickson rides his bicycle Friday along the Leonard Swanson Memorial Pathway near Sioux Park in Rapid City. Erickson said he was on his way home after riding to the grocery store.


Ryan Hermens, Journal staff 

Cynthia Robertson pulls her daughter, Rosen Wiese, 2, on a sled Friday along West Boulevard near Franklin Street in Rapid City.


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CAMPAIGN ROUNDUP
Campaign Roundup: Republicans gather in Rapid City

Editor's note: This is an installment of Campaign Roundup, a periodic feature in the Rapid City Journal this election year.

The Pennington County Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day Dinner will go ahead today no matter the weather, according to a notice sent by the party earlier this week.

Craig Ericks, one of the event's organizers, said Friday that there is too much invested in the event to postpone it.

"We're hoping the snow stops and the plows get out in the middle of the night," Ericks said Friday afternoon, "and by 5 o'clock today they've got the roads opened up."

The event will begin with a social at 5 p.m. and continue with a 6 p.m. program at Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

Numerous local, area and statewide Republican candidates typically attend to campaign and help raise money for the county party. 

Johnson to unveil Dusty’s Dozen

Dusty Johnson, a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. House, had planned to unveil a set of policy proposals he is calling Dusty’s Dozen today in Rapid City. Because of inclement weather, he has rescheduled the event.

Johnson is inviting the public to his announcement of the proposals at 10 a.m. Thursday at Pure Bean, 201 Main St. An advance news release said the proposals will encompass a range of topics, including welfare work requirements, congressional term limits and forest management.

Johnson is a former public utilities commissioner and former chief of staff to Gov. Dennis Daugaard, and is currently a manager with Vantage Point Solutions, an engineering and consulting firm in Mitchell.

Anti-hate group slams Tapio

The Alabama-based Southern Poverty Law Center published an article on its website Wednesday titled, “South Dakota state Senator who says terrorist attack will help his congressional campaign has history of anti-Muslim hate.”

The article refers to state Sen. Neal Tapio, R-Watertown, who is seeking the Republican nomination for U.S. House.

According to the SPLC, Tapio was recorded April 8 saying that a terrorist attack in the United States could help his campaign in the June 5 primary election.

The SPLC reported that Tapio said, “And then all that has to happen is that there will be one more terrorist attack between now and then and I will be the … just by the ‘Trump effect,’ I will be the candidate. That’s the way I look at it.”

The SPLC also detailed numerous other instances of what it described as anti-Islamic rhetoric from Tapio.

South Dakota Voices for Justice, a pro-pluralism advocacy organization, was quoted in the SPLC article as saying, “Tapio’s statements expose him for what he is: a hateful fear monger who is less interested in protecting citizens and more interested in hateful rhetoric that he thinks will propel him into office.”

Tapio campaign consultant Shad Olson, a former Rapid City television anchor, defended Tapio on Facebook. Olson called Tapio’s recorded comments “direct, honest and transparent, if inelegantly phrased.”

“Neal Tapio is not implying a hope for a terrorist attack,” Olson wrote. “Morons. No one outside the intellectually dishonest opportunism of his mainstream RINO opponents and their sycophantic obsequious fan clubs would be so dishonorably malevolent as to want someone to believe otherwise. You are dismissed.”

“RINO” is a derogatory term that means “Republican in Name Only.”

Bjorkman sour on Pelosi

Tim Bjorkman, a retired judge from Canistota who is the sole Democratic candidate for South Dakota’s U.S. House seat, issued a statement Wednesday after news broke that Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan will not seek re-election.

“Now that Paul Ryan has signaled his intentions not to seek re-election, perhaps Nancy Pelosi will surrender her leadership role as well,” Bjorkman said of Pelosi, the Democratic House minority leader. “Both have led the corrupt Congressional Dues system and it's time for change. I also renew my commitment from the beginning that I will not vote for Congresswoman Pelosi for any House leadership position. Fresh winds are blowing and it’s time to restore government to one that is by and for the People rather than the special interests!”

Krebs touts business support

Shantel Krebs, South Dakota’s secretary of state and a candidate for the Republican nomination for U.S. House, announced endorsements Tuesday from about 30 business leaders across the state.

“Helping my parents run the family farm and trucking operation taught me the hard work and dedication it takes to be a business owner,” Krebs said in a statement. “I took those lessons to my own businesses and am proud to be the only one in this race that knows what it means to sign both sides of the check.”

Jackley talks Trump

Days ahead of his oral argument before the U.S. Supreme Court, South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley — a candidate for the Republican nomination for governor — met with President Donald Trump’s legal team.

The subject was South Dakota’s case against Wayfair and other out-of-state, online retailers who oppose the state’s law requiring them to collect and remit sales taxes. Jackley will argue the case Tuesday to the Supreme Court. In a news release Tuesday, Jackley’s campaign said he used a meeting at the Department of Justice to talk strategy with the Office of the Solicitor General.

Both Trump and his director of the National Economic Council, Larry Kudlow, have maintained that a favorable ruling for South Dakota would level the playing field for Main Street businesses, said the news release from the Jackley campaign.

Sutton assesses the race

State Sen. Billie Sutton, of Burke, who is the sole Democrat running for governor, released a State of the Race report Thursday in which he made the case for a path to victory through polling data, fundraising milestones and other metrics.

Highlights include his fundraising of more than $1 million from over 6,000 donations and support from donors in 80 percent of South Dakota’s towns. About 1,000 people have signed up to volunteer for his campaign, the report said.

Noem releases education plan

U.S. Rep. Kristi Noem, R-S.D., who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor, released an education plan Tuesday.

Some of the highlights of the plan are:

  • Assisting local school districts in pursuing private funds to mitigate the cost of capital projects.
  • Pursuing public-private partnerships to financially reward good teachers, including collaborating with local businesses to sponsor a Teacher of the Month program.
  • Rejecting Common Core and seeking waivers and grants to customize South Dakota’s education system.
  • Expanding civics and U.S. history programs and encouraging schools to include the citizenship test as part of their graduation criteria.
  • Simplifying the scholarship application process, in part by creating a single, online repository for all scholarships.

Libertarian declares for governor

Steve Novotny, of Winner, issued a statement Monday saying he will seek the Libertarian Party’s nomination for governor.

The announcement said Novotny, 61, runs an aerial agricultural spraying business.


Ryan Hermens, Journal staff 

Aubrey Kenner, 6, plays in the snow with Sugar, a 9-month-old Saint Berdoodle, outside their home Friday near Fifth and Cleveland streets in Rapid City.