Interstate 90 west of Rapid City closed at 10 p.m. Tuesday until further notice as conditions continued to worsen from a strong winter storm in the Black Hills.
The South Dakota Department of Transportation announced the enforced closure will impact Interstate 90 in both directions from the Wyoming border to Exit 55/Deadwood Avenue in Rapid City. There was no expectation when the highway will reopen as of Tuesday night.
The winter storm is associated with a low pressure system in Colorado and began earlier than originally anticipated for Rapid City and the Black Hills, transitioning from rain to snow during the late morning and early afternoon hours on Tuesday.
As conditions changed Tuesday, the Sturgis Police Department issued a no travel advisory for the rest of the evening into Wednesday for all city streets. Reports indicate more than 6 to 8 inches of snow in Sturgis and Belle Fourche. Higher totals are expected in Spearfish.
Additionally, the Meade School District cancelled classes for Wednesday due to the winter weather.
In the Lead-Deadwood area, the National Weather Service in Rapid City forecasts more than two feet of snow.
Large snowflakes equivalent to 1-2 inches of snowfall per hour were observed in Rapid City around noon Tuesday. However, with temperatures above freezing the snow quickly turned into a slushy mess on roads and some accumulation in grassy areas.
As of 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, the city's Communication Coordinator Darrell Shoemaker said Street Department crews were treating hills and bridge decks and patrolling road conditions along Rapid City's 19 snow routes.
"Drivers are advised to use caution as snow conditions persist," Shoemaker said. "In addition, drivers are advised to watch for fallen tree branches in roadways due to the heavy, wet snow."
Melissa Smith, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Rapid City, said the snow accumulation dwindled in the late afternoon Tuesday but was expected to pick back up later Tuesday night and through Wednesday.
"We are expecting the intensity of the snow to go down some this afternoon, then pick back up," Smith said.
Smith said the surface temperatures in Rapid City are warm, causing the snow to melt in the daytime hours, but it could cause icy patches and slushy roads throughout Tuesday evening and into Wednesday, especially during the overnight hours with more snow accumulation expected.
Farther into the Northern Black Hills, areas from Hill City to Lead-Deadwood saw significant snow beginning to accumulate Tuesday in grassy areas and along some roadways.
Tuesday’s wintry weather also caused power outages affecting thousands of customers, according to Black Hills Energy.
The largest reported outage was in Sturgis where 3,072 customers lost power at around 3:45 p.m. Tuesday. Earlier in the day, 1,000 Black Hills Energy customers in southwest Rapid City lost their power for three hours. It was reported that all but 31 had power restored by 4:45 p.m.
Information on Black Hills Energy power outages and a map of the affected area can be found at https://www.blackhillsenergy.com/outages.
According to the National Weather Service in Rapid City, steady daytime temperatures Tuesday in Lead were at 32 degrees, with conditions expected to continue deteriorating throughout Tuesday afternoon, evening and into Wednesday. The weather service called for 4 to 8 inches of Tuesday daytime snow accumulation in Lead, 10 to 14 inches during the overnight hours, and an additional 4 to 8 inches on Wednesday.
In Rapid City, precipitation transitioned to a rain/snow mix with some sleet after 4 p.m. Tuesday. The National Weather Service said additional snow was expected during the overnight hours and into Wednesday, with an additional 3 to 7 inches of snow ending by 11 a.m. The rest of Wednesday is expected to transition to a rain/snow mix Wednesday evening.
Daytime temperatures in Rapid City are expected to be in the low- to mid- 40s through Wednesday, with overnight temperatures below freezing. A warm-up is expected by the weekend, with Sunday's high temperature forecast to be in the high 60s.
— Journal reporter Shannon Marvel contributed to this report.
The main building of the Ascent Innovation Campus in downtown Rapid City has been named the David Lust Accelerator Building, in honor of a man who was committed to community service and economic development through Elevate Rapid City.
Lust, 53, died unexpectedly on July 23. The Board of Directors of Elevate Rapid City made the naming announcement Tuesday during the official ribbon-cutting ceremony and open house of the $15 million David Lust Accelerator Building, or D-LAB.
Members of Lust's family attended the emotional ceremony. Elevate Rapid City Board of Directors Chairman Darren Haar said he hopes that when people drive by the 40,000-square-foot building at Main Street and East Boulevard they will think of all the entrepreneurs, all the joint community efforts that came together to build the D-LAB for the future of Rapid City.
"I'm going to ask you to think of one person in particular when you drive by this building — Dave Lust," Haar said. "[He was a] friend and servant messenger. I had the opportunity to work with him on many projects. I saw him as a friend and mentor. Someone you could really rely on. Dave was the kind of guy who was always there for his community. He was there for us individually.
"And when you drive by this building, I want you to think about the people, I want you to think about David, that build communities. It's people like him that do this."
Lust was a business attorney for more than 22 years and in 2006 was elected to the South Dakota Legislature where he served for 11 years, including two terms as majority leader.
He served on the boards of Rapid City Economic Development Partnership, the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology, the Rapid City Area Chamber of Commerce and championed the goals of Elevate Rapid City for economic development.
The Rapid City Council unanimously approved the Ascent Innovation Campus in November 2017 with the groundbreaking of the building now named for Lust in October 2019. Elevate Rapid City was also established in 2019 through the merger of the Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Partnership, and the Economic Development Foundation to lead development and small business efforts in the Black Hills region.
The David Lust Accelerator Building will primarily serve as an entrepreneurship incubator for new and existing small businesses. The D-LAB will provide management assistance, cost-effective space, and a collaborative approach to develop local businesses.
According to Tom Johnson, President/CEO of Elevate Rapid City, the D-LAB is already 70% leased, with anticipated move-in dates for businesses in February 2022.
"This is a great day for Rapid City. This space will further our mission," Johnson said during the ceremony Tuesday.
And the Ascent Innovation Campus is looking to continue growing following the opening of the David Lust Accelerator Building. The plan for the original Ascent Innovation Building on the campus of South Dakota Mines is for it to be sold back to the school.
Johnson said Elevate is a strong partner with South Dakota Mines and views the campus as critical for the growth of innovation in Rapid City. As the Ascent Innovation Center has relocated closer to downtown, Johnson said it is fitting for the school to take ownership and expand their mission as well.
The D-LAB will be phase one of a larger Ascent Innovation Campus, Johnson said.
"When we are done with this one, we are about to turn around and do another one with another incubator," Johnson said. "We're going to do this again real soon and hopefully have another groundbreaking. We couldn't have done this without those who have come before us like David Lust."
A proposed 2022 cannabis legalization ballot initiative has been approved by the South Dakota Secretary of State for signature gathering, according to a news release from South Dakotans for Better Marijuana Laws.
The statutory cannabis legalization initiative would make personal cannabis possession and cultivation legal for adults 21 and over, according to Matthew Schweich, SDBML campaign director.
To make it on the 2022 ballot, SDBML will need to collect just under 17,000 valid signatures from South Dakota registered voters by Nov. 8.
"At the 2020 Election, 54% of South Dakota voters approved Amendment A, a constitutional cannabis legalization initiative," the release states. "However, since then, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has orchestrated a taxpayer-funded lawsuit that has suspended implementation of the law. The case is currently before the South Dakota Supreme Court. The hearing was on April 28 but a ruling has still not been issued.
In 2020, 70% of South Dakota voters also approved Measure 26, a medical cannabis law, making South Dakota the first state to approve recreational and medical cannabis reform at the same time.
The proposed short, statutory ballot initiative was one of five filed with the state. Out of those five, Schweich said the short statutory legalization initiative was chosen to move forward because it is the most likely to withstand any future legal challenges.
"Statutory is less likely to be scrutinized than a constitutional amendment. Courts are going to be a little harsher, stricter if you're trying to do a constitutional," Schweich said. The short version has less components to it as well, which helps negate potential challenges to it for predicating too many areas of public policy, he added.
Signature drives in Rapid City, Aberdeen, Sioux Falls and other locations in South Dakota are planned to help garner the required number of signatures before the Nov. 8 deadline.
The locations and dates of the signatures drives will be announced within the next few days.
“We have less than a month to collect the signatures we need, but our supporters are very energized," Schweich said. "They are deeply frustrated by Governor Noem’s decision to launch a taxpayer-funded lawsuit against Amendment A, the lack of a ruling in the case, and Governor Noem’s failed attempt to severely delay the implementation of Measure 26."
The initiative text and related documents can be found on the South Dakota Secretary of State's website at https://sdsos.gov/elections-voting/upcoming-elections/general-information/2022-ballot-questions.aspx.
South Dakota state Rep. Taffy Howard formally announced Tuesday that she is challenging Dusty Johnson, the state's lone U.S. congressman, in next year's Republican primary.
Howard will try to capitalize on a shift within the Republican party that is largely based on loyalty to former President Donald Trump. The lawmaker, who has challenged the GOP establishment during her time in the Statehouse, has positioned herself to the political right of Johnson, a popular incumbent who has held the seat for three years.
Howard echoed Trump's discredited claims of widespread voter fraud and has criticized Johnson for voting to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. She said she would like each state to conduct a thorough review of the election that goes beyond just a recount.
"I believe there was fraud in the last election that needs to be investigated," Howard said. “Our current congressman is not willing to admit that there was an issue.”
Trump's own attorney general has said there was no evidence of widespread voter fraud in last year's election, and almost all of the legal challenges casting doubt on its outcome have been dismissed or withdrawn.
Johnson argued at the time of the vote in January that it was not Congress’ role to judge the Electoral College votes.
He is known for constantly crisscrossing the state to attend events. His campaign has $1.5 million to spend, while Howard said she has raised $110,000. A federal campaign finance report for Howard was not yet available.
But Howard argued she has popular support, saying she decided to enter the race after hearing from “so many people that are clamoring for change."
The congressman has frequently touted his work with a bipartisan group in the U.S. House known as the “Problem Solvers Caucus.” He also voted to keep Rep. Liz Cheney, the Wyoming congresswoman, in GOP House leadership.
“Scorecards rank me among one of the most conservative Members of Congress, and I’ve been a champion for fiscal responsibility," Johnson said in a statement. "I’ve delivered legislative victories for South Dakota, and I’m going to keep doing so."
Howard, who has held a South Dakota House seat for five years, has a reputation for defying top Republicans and at times has clashed with Gov. Kristi Noem. The lawmaker has pushed some of the most conservative positions, both on social and fiscal issues, in the Statehouse. She listed gun rights, building a wall at the U.S. and Mexico border, and limiting the national debt as top priorities if she is elected.
Howard, of Rapid City, scheduled a pair of events to kick off her campaign Tuesday, but her intentions had been known for weeks as she set up a campaign website and filed to run for Congress.
The Republican primary is next June. Democrats have yet to announce a U.S. House candidate.