Downtown Rapid City looked like a ghost town Wednesday afternoon as wind gusts as high as 53 miles per hour hurled snow through largely vacant streets.
It will likely look the same this morning, according to National Weather Service forecasters tracking a storm that is walloping large parts of Wyoming, Nebraska, Colorado and the entire state of South Dakota.
“Even though the snow will stop falling (Thursday) morning, we’re going to see blowing snow throughout the day,” NWS Meteorologist Keith Sherbern said Wednesday.
The storm was expected to hit the Black Hills early Wednesday morning, but a mass of dry air hovering over the area prevented snow from falling until around 3 p.m.
At 3:45 p.m. Wednesday, the Rapid City Police Department issued a no-travel advisory for all of Pennington County.
The advisory was issued as wind gusts averaging around 40 mph created whiteout conditions in the rural areas, leading the Highway Patrol to close Interstate 90 from Wall to the Wyoming border. Earlier, the stretch from Wall to Chamberlain was ordered closed.
The storm also attracted the attention of the Weather Channel, which sent a team to Rapid City that included meteorologist Chris Bruin, who did live reports throughout the day.
Forecasters said Wednesday they expect between six and 10 inches to fall over the area by this morning, down from the foot that had been predicted. While forecasters expect the storm will taper off this morning, wind speeds as high as 50 to 60 mph could continue through today.
As a result, Rapid City area schools will remain closed for the second day in a row.
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About 15 flights were cancelled by Wednesday's closure of the terminal at Rapid City Regional Airport, said Deputy Finance and Administration Director Toni Broom. Airport staff remained on duty, she said, while many airport tenants sent their employees home.
Broom said the airport hoped to reopen this morning but early flights would likely be delayed.
State government offices in 39 counties, meanwhile, were ordered closed Wednesday by Gov. Kristi Noem. The storm also led to the closure of a Veterans Affairs outpatient clinic in Pierre and all Black Hills National Forest offices.
With a prediction of nearly two feet of snow, forecasters said that Lead, Deadwood and other Northern Hills communities were expected to bear the brunt of the storm. Pine Ridge and parts of Oglala Lakota and Bennett counties were said to be similarly affected.
Five to six inches of snow had fallen in Pine Ridge and in parts of Oglala Lakota and Bennett counties by mid-afternoon, forecasters said.
Between 10 and 15 inches are expected to fall in Spearfish.
The southeastern region of the state was inundated with heavy rainfall that was forecast to continue through the night. The NWS received reports of one to two inches of rain in that area by Thursday afternoon.
The rain and melting snow caused widespread flooding in low-lying rural roadways and farmlands, meteorologist Peter Rogers of the NWS said. Street flooding was reported in Sioux Falls and in Yankton.
Snow is expected to taper off throughout the morning today with temperatures hovering near the low 30s. Wind will die down by Friday, when dry weather and temperatures in the mid-to-upper 30s are forecast.