October 04, 2016

A Look Back: Winter Storm Atlas

Stranded cars at Walmart during Winter Storm Atlas, October 2013. Stranded cars at Walmart during Winter Storm Atlas, October 2013. (Alexa White, Pennington County Emergency Management)


This week marks the third anniversary of the devastating Winter Storm Atlas that paralyzed the region October 3-5, 2013.  The storm downed trees (remember the gargantuan mounds of trees and pulp in the Fitzgerald Stadium parking lot!), produced thousands of livestock deaths, closed schools and roads and literally paralyzed the region for days. 

The photo is from Alexa White at Pennington County Emergency Management showing stranded cars at Walmart.

Here is a summary from The Weather Channel about Winter Storm Atlas:

Winter Storm Atlas delivered feet of snow from the northern Rockies to the northern High Plains Thursday through Saturday, Oct. 3-5. As the region recovered, late reports continued to trickle in as late as Monday afternoon, long after the storm had ended. Here's a roundup of the impacts of Atlas:

South Dakota

•According to The Associated Press, first responders in Rapid City were overwhelmed with calls for stuck vehicles and downed trees and power lines making some roads impassable. Police spokeswoman Tarah Heupel said snow and ice was accumulating on traffic signals, making the lights difficult to see.

•A report submitted to the National Weather Service Friday night said that there was widespread tree damage on the north side of Rapid City along with widespread power outages.

•The National Weather Service confirmed blizzard conditions occurred in Rapid City, with visibility of 1/8 mile for over three hours.

•Sustained winds reached 44 mph with gusts to 55 mph at the Rapid City airport before the sensor was knocked out of commission late Friday afternoon. As of Sunday morning the airport was still not reporting any weather data.

•All Rapid City schools were closed Friday due to impacts from Atlas.

•Interstate 90 was closed between Murdo and the Wyoming state line.

•Wind gusts up to 71 mph accompanied the heavy snow in western South Dakota.

Snowfall Totals:

A Monday update from the National Weather Service indicated that the top total was 3 miles southeast of Beulah, Wyo., just over the state line in northwest Lawrence County, S.D. At this location, an incredible 58 inches of snow fell. The liquid equivalent there was 6.78 inches of water, over 20% of the average annual precipitation in this area. Other totals included:

Lead – 55"

 Deadwood – 48" on the west side of town

 Sturgis – 35" on the east side of town

 Piedmont – 35"

 Rapid City – up to 31" on the city's southwest side

 Spearfish – 26" downtown

The official total of 23.1 inches in Rapid City makes this the second heaviest snowstorm on record in the city. Nearly six months ago they recorded their now third heaviest snowstorm on record with 22.4 inches from April 8-10, 2013. It is also by far the biggest October snowstorm in Rapid City; in fact, the 23.1 inches from this one storm dwarfs the city's previous record for the entire month of October, which was 15.1 inches in 1919.

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