As we start to ease into another South Dakota winter, thoughts of shoveling snow and dealing with icy sidewalks might seem disheartening. Hopefully we’ll have a nice, mild winter, but here are ten horrific storms that remind us just how bad it can get.
1. January 12, 1888
After a few days of winter storms, on the morning of January 12, 1888, the weather was unseasonably warm. People left home to run errands and do chores. The Schoolhouse Blizzard of 1888 swept across the Dakotas during mid-morning, taking many by surprise. 235 people across several states, including South Dakota, died. Many froze to death when they tried to find their homes in whiteout conditions.
2. May 3-4, 1905
Known as The Great Equalizer, this blizzard affected ranches of all sizes. The storm started with rain, but turned to snow...and ended up dumping 3-4 feet in some areas. Cattle, sheep and horses died out on the prairie as they wandered off and froze to death. Losses at some ranches were estimated at as high as 90 percent of their herds; thousands of animals died.
3. January/February, 1949
On January 2nd, 1949, a snowstorm hit South Dakota, along with several other nearby states. The storm raged for several days, dropping feet of heavy snow. Later storms in early February brought high winds and caused huge snowdrifts up to 35 feet high. Buildings were all but covered with snow, and the railroad came to a dead stop as trains were buried and had to be dug out.
4. March 2-5, 1966
With snowfall of 20-30 inches and high winds up to 70 mph, this blizzard is still considered one of the worst in the state's history. Thousands of livestock died during the storm, and power was out for days. At least six South Dakotans died; some from the exertion of shoveling snow, others from getting lost in the blizzard.
5. March 29, 1981
When power lines are covered in snow and ice, they break. On March 29, 1981, more than 15,000 power poles did just that, leaving South Dakotans huddling in their homes, trying to stay warm without power. The storm left more than 10 inches of snow on the ground, and many cars overturned on I-29.
6. November 27, 2005
Ice was also a major problem during a storm on November 27, 2005. The storm left a deep layer of snow, but freezing rain was an even bigger issue, freezing much of the state in inches of ice. Car accidents were rampant, and at least two people died.
7. April 25, 2008
10 to 15 inches of snow fell in East River during the blizzard of April 25, 2008. Snowfall records were broken, and Watertown received 19 inches in less than 24 hours.
8. January, 20-26 2010
East River took another major hit in January, 2010, when a disastrous storm caused over $10 million in property damage. Major power outages caused by drifting snow and ice displaced many into 31 emergency shelters. Whiteout conditions closed down the freeway system, leaving even more people stranded.
9. April, 2013
2013 brought two major snowstorms to South Dakota. During a severe storm from April 8th through the 10th, Deadwood received 30 inches of snow. Across the state, record snowfall totals caused transportation problems. Ice knocked out power lines.
10. October 4-5, 2013
Four people died during this two-day storm in October, 2013. Heavy snowfall was recorded state-wide, but Lead received 55 inches of snow in just two days. Thousands of cattle died, people were left without power for several days and even large trees were felled with the snow and ice.