A powerful storm expected to hit western South Dakota early this morning could break a nearly 100-year record.
Rapid City may see the earliest major snowstorm in recorded history, according to the National Weather Service in Rapid City. Records date back to 1888.
This very powerful storm prompted a blizzard warning stretching from Belle Fourche to Pine Ridge to be issued Thursday afternoon effective 6 a.m. today to 9 a.m. Saturday. Winds up to 50 mph are expected with 70 mph gusts.
Snowfall amounts in Rapid City could reach up to a foot, obliterating the record of nearly three inches.
"If Rapid City gets more than 2.8 inches of snow, it would be the earliest significant accumulation on record," Melissa Smith with the National Weather Service said Thursday.
The record for the most snow in one day in October goes back to 1919. On Oct. 19 of that year, Rapid City received 10 inches.
Smith said this storm is a continuation of the weather patterns the area has seen all summer.
"We’ve been in a very active weather period," she said. "There were a lot of storms this summer. We saw a lot of hail and winds, and this stormy pattern is continuing into the fall bringing us an early season winter storm."
The storm is expected to dump more than two feet of snow in portions of the Black Hills. The heaviest snow is expected to fall between Lead and Custer, with areas as far as away Lemmon and Winner expected to see five to six inches.
The most dangerous part of the storm is the high winds, said Jeff Schild, meteorologist with NWS in Rapid City.
"I would not have travel plans tomorrow," he said. "The blizzard warning covers the Sturgis and Spearfish area too. If you have any travel plans, I recommend changing or delaying them if at all possible."
The storm was expected to transition from rain to snow late Thursday evening in the upper elevations and before sunrise today near Rapid City.
Snow is expected to continue all day today and into Saturday morning.
Temperatures Thursday night were set to hit the mid 20s in the Hills and the low 40s in Rapid City. Today, those are expected to fall to the low 30s for Rapid City and 20s in the Hills.
The forecast had officials at the South Dakota Department of Transportation scrambling to prepare Thursday.
"It's fairly early in the year for an event like this," said Gary Engel, Rapid City Area Engineer with DOT. "But they got the plows and sanders on the trucks ... We’ve had to move some staff around within the state because it is so early."
Not only will there be driving hazards and visibility problems. Heavy snow falling on trees that still have their leaves could cause branches to break and trees to fall. Power lines could face the same problems.
Officials at Black Hills Power began preparing crews and equipment early Thursday to deploy Thursday night and today in case power lines are taken out by the powerful storm.
"Obviously, we’re real concerned with this storm," Mutch Usera, senior manager external affairs for Black Hills Power said. "The high winds and heavy snow creates many problems. Not just trees, but debris flying around and the snow on the power lines causes stress. Our crews will be on call ready to go, and all our equipment is ready to tackle a storm."