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Latest winter storm could pack a wallop

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This year’s seemingly endless winter is again toying with Black Hills residents eager to put away their snow shovels and get on with what should be spring, at least as far as the calendar is concerned.

Not so fast.

In what’s becoming almost a weekly litany, another early spring storm threatens not just Rapid City and the Black Hills, but the entire state starting late Thursday in the west and continuing well into the weekend in the east.

And all signs point to this storm packing a wallop, with snowfall amounts of more than a foot and maximum wind gusts through the day on Friday of up to 60 mph.

“It’ll be pretty nasty across our area,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Keith Sherburn of Rapid City.

Motorists can also expect adverse travel conditions with slush-clogged roads and near-zero visibility. Of particular worry, he said, is the harm the storm could bring to ranchers and their young livestock with the prospect of heavy snow, temperatures in the teens and high winds.

“That’s a big concern for us right now,” Sherburn said. “With a heavy, wet snow and strong winds, there’s always the potential for some scattered power outages and issues like that.” 

The storm is expected to start as rainfall during the day on Thursday, changing to wet snow from the northwest to southeast.

“For Rapid here, we’ll probably be in all snow by about midnight,” Sherburn said.

The heaviest snowfall here will happen from pre-dawn through the early afternoon hours Friday.

Snowfall rates will be impressive, he said, from one-half inch to an inch per hour for several hours.

The potential for the heaviest snowfall, exceeding a foot or more, has shifted to the central and south-central parts of the state, from Kadoka eastward, he said.

Part of the northern Black Hills and foothills, including Lead-Deadwood, Spearfish, Belle Fourche, Sturgis and Spearfish, could see 8-12 inches of snow, with points in the central and southern hills, including Custer, Hill City and Hot Springs receiving 4 to 6 inches.

Rapid City could see 8-10 inches of snowfall, with accumulations higher on the city’s east side.

Winds, gusting to as high as 60 mph, will pick up starting midday Friday and continue into Saturday morning.

Snowfall will begin to subside early afternoon Friday in the northwest part of the state, with conditions in Rapid City improving by evening.

In central and south central parts of the state, the storm may not abate until midnight or early Saturday.

The worsening forecast has already impacted scheduled events here and in Pierre as of Wednesday afternoon.

Organizers of the the Extreme Indoor Enduro scheduled for Saturday at  Rushmore Plaza Civic Center canceled the event, citing many of the participants coming from out of state to the event.

Also, because of the impending storm, Friday’s scheduled South Dakota Highway Patrol trooper graduation has been moved to 12:30 p.m. MDT Thursday in the State Capitol Rotunda in Pierre.

Sherburn said more spring-like conditions should return by early next week, with a weak weather system bring some cooling by the middle of the week.

But, he said, yet another bout of winter could be in the offing for the first part of the following week.

The region is locked in a weather pattern generally below normal in terms of temperatures and above normal in terms of precipitation.

“The longer-range forecasts don’t really show any sign of that letting up,” he said. “I’d like to provide better news, but it looks like we’ll be stuck in this for a little while longer.”

Sherburn shares residents’ frustration with the seemingly endless string of snowstorms.

“This has been a crazy winter,” he said. “I’m looking forward to it ending.”

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