Last weekend's snowstorm shut down highways and closed schools across central and eastern South Dakota. In the Rapid City area, the storm roared on by with only a few snowflakes.
It seems that living in Rapid City can mean a hit or miss experience with many winter storms that pass through the Northern Plains. While other parts of the state are shutdown because of blizzard conditions, Rapid City's "Banana Belt" climate is spared the worst.
Rapid City still manages to get about 40 inches of snow each year, fortunately not all at once. City streets can become clogged with snow if it falls fast and deep enough.
The city spends about $1 million a year keeping snow off the streets – about $100,000 to $150,000 per snowstorm. The city's policy on snow removal includes several layers of response, depending on snowfall amounts.
Storms that drop 2 to 4 inches will have city plows only on arterial streets, emergency routes, streets with steep hills and major intersections. Four to 6 inches of snow will bring plows to high-traffic residential streets, sub-collector streets and the downtown area. More than 6 or more inches, and the city will plow all streets, hiring contractors to help out. There are more than 350 miles of streets in the city, so clearing snow from all of them would take a lot of time – and expense.
Even so, residents complain about where the city plows and how quickly it responds when there is any measurable snowfall.
We are of the opinion, though, that if you are bothered by snow on the streets, South Dakota is not the best place to live. It snows here in the winter -- sometimes a lot -- get used to it.
Rapid City does use chemicals in its salt and sand mixture it spreads after a snowfall. Despite the damage the chemicals can do to vehicles from corrosion, city officials have a good reason for using the mix: It keeps city streets from icing over.
All in all, the city does a good job keeping the traffic moving through the city after a snowstorm.
And enjoy our "Banana Belt" weather; it beats living in Sioux Falls.