October 03, 2023

October 2013: Winter Storm Atlas Anniversary Offers Time to Reflect and Plan Ahead




Officials Say Now Is Time To Prepare For Upcoming Season;

RAPID CITY, SD—This week marks the 10th anniversary of 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 at the time 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 thousands of 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.


            First responders, like current Rapid City Police Chief Don Hedrick, have several enduring memories of the storm.

            He recalls a patrol lieutenant at the time who had been on shift, non-stop for a day and a half without relief.  He remembers the Black Hills Snowmobile Club and the efforts of the Club’s members to transport first responders to emergencies because roads were blocked by snow drifts, downed power lines and trees.

            “You couldn’t tell where the road was, where the cars were,” remembers Hedrick.  “When I finally got into work, the first order of business was bringing in replacements and getting those who had been here so long, home.

            “The snowmobilers really stepped up.  They were shuttling our officers around and taking oxygen bottles to residents who needed help.”

            He also remembers former Police Chief Karl Jegeris walking to work…in snow shoes.  Hedrick also remembers walking up a hill and noticed glass beneath his feet.  He thought the site of glass was very odd.

            “I bent down and rubbed the top of the glass.  That’s when I realized it was the sun roof of a car.  The snow was that high.  You couldn’t see the vehicles. You didn’t know where the roads were.”

            Chief Hedrick said many residents spent the night in stranded patrol cars with officers.  He also doesn’t recall a lot of crime being committed during Winter Storm Atlas.

            “Things mellowed down during the storm.  Everyone was so focused on the snow.  People were helping others who were stranded, or they were stranded themselves.  We didn’t have a lot of extreme issues with crime.  We had a lot of extreme issues with the weather.”


            For the past several years, the City has utilized the anniversary of Winter Storm Atlas to initiate and promote seasonal messages to the public.

            "If you were here during the Atlas storm, it’s safe to say you have a strong recollection of the impact of the blizzard or a story or two to tell," said Darrell Shoemaker, City Communications Coordinator.  "It greatly impacted the area with storm damage and livestock deaths.  For the City, the anniversary of the storm is an opportunity to look back but also to take the opportunity to begin promoting some important seasonal messages to the community and residents."

            Shoemaker says various seasonal messages will be shared on social media through the month of October.  He says the Atlas Anniversary is also an opportunity for residents to develop and work on a checklist of action items for the upcoming winter season.


With the early October storm, most area residents were caught off-guard by the duration and devastation of the storm.  The storm event is a good example of changing weather patterns in a short time in the Black Hills area and region.  City officials provide these recommendations:

**Fire Chief Jason Culberson says now would be a good time to locate the 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 officials provide some helpful advice for the upcoming season and storm events: they advise drivers to 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.

            Officials also encourage residents to sign up for emergency alert notifications from the city, county and emergency management.

**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. Check in with an elderly or disabled neighbor if you can assist them with their snow removal.

         Throughout October, the City will be sharing additional weather-related messages and information from Emergency Management, as well as fire, police and street departments.

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