It has been more than eight years since the weather system nicknamed 'Winter Storm Atlas' or 'The Great Blizzard of 2013' or 'The Cattlemen's Blizzard'. Whatever it's called, anyone living here has vivid memories of the blizzard and the damage and devastation to the region.
The Thursday-Saturday storm (Oct. 3-5, 2013) resulted in considerable damage with downed power lines and trees, which had not yet dropped their leaves and broke under the weight of the heavy snows. There were considerable livestock deaths and property damage through the region as well.
Local residents will remember the massive mounds of trees that were hauled to Fitzgerald Stadium, Central States Fairgrounds and other locations in the city for grinding and ultimate removal. Power outages, stalled and stuck vehicles, stranded residents and workers, and a community brought to a virtual standstill, remain vivid memories.
The City's snow policies include important items for the general public, including policies on removal of snow from sidewalks, important messages from City officials on preparing for storms and advice to consider during winter storms. Much of the preparations for a storm can take place before a storm arrives.
Among the items:
**Fire Chief Jason Culberson says now would be a good time to find that ice scraper, check your tire pressure and quality of tires, make sure you have a set of jumper cables, check the antifreeze and quality of your battery, etc. Get in the habit of keeping a sufficient amount of fuel in your vehicle.
**Street Department Superintendent Dale Pfeifle advises drivers to make sure to remove ice and snow from the windshields, hood and top of the car; and with any storm, drive with caution, drive the road conditions and not the speed limit, always be prepared for changing road conditions even in different areas of the community, and allow additional time to reach your destination.
**Pennington County Emergency Management officials say the Atlas anniversary is a good opportunity to build a winter travel survival kit for your car and assemble items in your home should you be homebound for a few days due to winter weather or an extended power outage. Get the snow blower fired up and find the snow shovel. Pennington County Emergency Management advises a winter storm kit for your car should include: sleeping bags or blankets, matches and candles, winter clothing, food, first-aid kit, pocket knife, flashlight and radio with extra batteries for each, a bag of sand and shovel, tire chains and tools, windshield scraper, battery jumper cables, and two coffee cans. Small supplies can be kept in the coffee cans and when stranded, one can be used for personal sanitation needs and the other to burn the candles in for heat. When burning a candle, leave a down-wind window slightly open for air circulation and ventilation. Carbon monoxide poisoning can happen without the victim being aware of it until it's too late.
If a major storm is forecasted, make time to prepare around your home: remember to collect foodstuffs, medication, diapers and baby/infant food, and pet supplies. Have a working radio, flashlights/lanterns/candles where they can be easily accessed if a power outage should occur.
**Now would be a good time to inquire with a neighbor or make arrangements for snow removal around your home if you are unable to remove snow due to age or disability. Or check with an elderly or disabled neighbor if you can assist them with their snow removal.
Throughout October, the City will be sharing weather-related messages and information from Emergency Management, as well as fire, police and street departments.
Below is information on City snow removal policies, messages from City officials and other important information:
SNOW REMOVAL POLICY (STREETS): The goal is to provide the motorist with the safest driving surface possible, in an efficient and economical manner, with the resources available. Initial service of streets during a snow/ice incident will be applications of sand, salt, liquid de-icer or a combination of these products. To reduce the amount of material used, flat level streets are not treated unless a special situation should exist. Other accepted chemicals may be used for maximum effectiveness.
Streets will be treated in the following order of priority:
*All arterial and emergency routes along with those streets having steep grades or other hazardous geometry and major intersections. Examples include Fifth Street to Rapid City Regional Hospital, Omaha Street, Mount Rushmore Road, Fairmont Boulevard, Saint Patrick Street, Jackson Boulevard, Sheridan Lake Road, Canyon Lake Drive.
*Collector and sub-collector streets and school routes. Street Department officials coordinate with school officials and if school is in session, school routes are prioritized
DOWNTOWN SNOW ALERT DESIGNATIONS: The City of Rapid City can issue a downtown snow alert under certain conditions during extreme snow events. The downtown snow removal core area is defined as West Boulevard to the west, Fifth Street to the east, Omaha Street to the north and Kansas City Street to the south.
The City's Public Works Director can declare a Snow Removal Alert in the downtown core area for snow to be cleared for the safe and orderly flow of traffic and for the safety, health and welfare of the general public. When a Snow Removal Alert is declared, any vehicle or trailer parked in the downtown core area from 2 a.m. to 8 a.m. may be removed by the police department and the vehicle's owner or operator assessed a fine and charges for towing and storage of the vehicle.
The City will use traditional media sources as well as the City's social media platform including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to relay messages.
SNOW AND ICE REMOVAL (SIDEWALKS): Per City Ordinance 12.12.090, it is the duty of the homeowner to keep the sidewalk(s) fronting or abutting a lot, parcel or plot of ground free from snow and ice at all times. When it is impossible to take the snow and ice from the walk by reason of it be being frozen to the sidewalk, the owner or occupant shall sprinkle or spread suitable material to prevent the walk from becoming slippery and dangerous to travel. Sidewalks that are not kept free from snow and ice are declared a nuisance, and upon the failure, neglect or refusal to comply, the owner or occupant may be held in violation. If the snow and ice is not removed within 24 hours, the City can have the area cleared of snow and ice with the costs assessed to the property.
**People who experience difficulties shoveling or maintaining their sidewalks during the winter due to a disability, age, etc. are advised to make preparations before the winter season to line up assistance for such tasks.
TEXT ALERT MESSAGING SYSTEM FOR PUBLIC: Rapid City and Pennington County will provide public impact messages using an upgraded notification system.
The notification system is a joint effort involving Pennington County, City of Rapid City, Rapid City Police Department, Pennington County Sheriff's Office, Rapid City Fire Department, Pennington County Highway and Pennington County Emergency Management in partnership with Everbridge Software Company.
Weather and emergency-related messages will be communicated through the Everbridge notification system. In recent years, the public could receive county and city alert messages on the 211 Helpline system.
"As we approach the winter, we encourage the public to consider re-subscribing to the new system or subscribing for the first time to the public impact text messages as a way of staying informed and receiving official notifications regarding incidents having public impact," said Alexa White, Deputy Director with Rapid City-Pennington County Emergency Management. "Messages sent will relate to accidents and infrastructure incidents that impact traffic flow, structure or grass fires causing traffic hazards or delays, weather-related no travel advisories or snow cleanup messaging. These events and others are useful to the public."
Subscribers to the system can text keywords to 888777 on their mobile devices to receive messages. Users can choose to receive any or all of four separate impact messages. Messages will be sent to a specific keyword depending on the location of the incident or event. City and county impact messages regarding snow operations or hazardous travel will be issued with the event names 'RCSnow' for Rapid City and 'PCSnow' for Pennington County. These messages could include the issuance of a downtown snow alert, the closures of specific facilities such as City Hall, County Administration Offices, the City Landfill, Library, Airport or Rapid Transit Services, or travel advisories in the county and community issued by authorities.
In addition, subscribers can choose to receive text alerts entitled 'PCImpact' and 'RCImpact'. City impacts include events such as major accidents with road closures, utility line failure resulting in traffic impacts, or an alert issued by the Rapid City police or fire departments impacting traffic or neighborhood residents. Pennington County impact events include traffic impacts due to an accident, wild fire with evacuations or closures, law enforcement events requiring public notification.
Text one or more of the following keywords to '888777':
RCSnow: Includes messages about downtown snow alert declarations, closures of City operations such as Landfill, Library, Rapid Transit, Airport and City Hall.
PCSnow: Includes travel advisories in the county, closures of county administrative offices, etc.
RCImpact: City impacts such as major accidents w/road closures, utility line failures with traffic impacts, police and fire alerts impacting traffic or specific neighborhood residents.
PCImpact: County events could include accidents with traffic impacts, fire with evacuations or closures, law enforcement events requiring public notification.
This information and instructions can be found online at https://www.pennco.org/textalerts
CITY PLOWING POLICY: Snow plowing incidents will be divided into three levels of service. The service level will be determined by the Director of Public Works or his designee.
*Level A Response (approximately 2-4 inches of snow depth): This level of service will include the plowing of all arterial streets, emergency routes, streets with steep grades and other hazardous geometry, collector streets and major intersections. May include downtown snow removal.
*Level B Response (approximately 4-6 inches of snow depth): Sub-collector streets and some high traffic residential streets will be plowed in addition to those streets covered in 'Level A Response'. Included in this service will be downtown snow removal. Some work may be contracted with the private sector.
*Level C Response (greater than 6 inches of snow depth): All remaining Rapid City streets. Contractors will be hired so this service may be completed in the shortest period of time possible.
Driveway entrances will not be opened by City crews under routine plowing operations. City policy will be to remove snow from sidewalks on public bridges and from curb side sidewalks located on streets with four or more traffic lanes, on a predominantly residential street and on a school pedestrian route. This work will only be done after street plowing operations have been completed.
City crews plow streets from curb to curb to maintain surface drainage.
*The City Streets Department has over 50 pieces of equipment related to snow removal. Combined with resources from the City's Parks Department, the City's Solid Waste Division and Rapid City Regional Airports, there are over 100 pieces of equipment that can be utilized at various City properties during a particular snow event.
*The City is divided into 19 different snow routes.
*There are over 400 miles of streets in Rapid City. Most of the streets are multi-lane with two, three and four-lanes of traffic. Stretching out the lanes and the 400 miles expands considerably. During a particular snow event, City crews can be traveling a distance from Rapid City to California and back.
*No snow 'event' is the same. Each event brings its own unique weather characteristics. City officials begin preparing for each snow event days in advance.
*Crews keep equipment maintained well in advance of the winter season. Chemical compound is purchased months in advance.
Here are important messages from:
*RAPID CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT: Fire Chief Jason Culberson asks the following from residents and visitors of Rapid City and the surrounding area: When advisories are issued, like “no travel advised”, please heed the warning for your own safety and of those that count on you. If you don’t need to go out, please don’t. If you must travel, be prepared. A winter travel kit in your vehicle can come in handy even if you are traveling in and around the City. (extra clothing, water, blankets, food, shovel, ice scraper, phone charger, etc). Maintain your vehicle for winter travel. (tires, wipers, battery, antifreeze, etc.)
*RAPID CITY REGIONAL AIRPORT: If the airport is closed, personnel will alert the media. If the runway is closed, updates are provided through their website and social media. Airlines may sometimes cancel or delay flights based on conditions even if the runway is open so airport officials always recommend the public to check with the specific airline regarding flight status.