Continuing the Crook County News Since 1884

Giant blizzard batters region

Winter Storm Diaz brings snow, wind and days of disruption

As much of the region braced under the impact of a storm so enormous that it eventually impacted most of the nation, some were left wondering what all the fuss was about – especially within the Sundance city limits. That was, until last week’s blizzard began to pick up pace again just as it was meant to be winding down.

The storm itself was enormous enough to caused tornadoes in the south of the country and heavy snow further north at exactly the same time. By Friday, according to national news sources, at least 50 tornadoes had been sighted across southern states including Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana.

This single storm system brought heavy snowfall and driving winds across the north, including the Black Hills. It stalled over the northern plains, resulting in several days of blizzard conditions; even after the low shifted to the east into Minnesota, strong winds and bands of snow remained across western South Dakota.

Some areas were reporting a foot by the end of the first day, while schools ultimately closed early for the Christmas vacation across Crook County. Crook County Medical Services District clinics also closed temporarily, while numerous businesses decided to close early or keep their doors locked and many of the roads became impassable.

The interstate closed on Tuesday afternoon in response to South Dakota’s decision to shut down their end. Other road closures included U.S. 14 towards the state line and U.S. 212.

In other places, however, not much was happening at all – at least at first. As the winds created whiteout conditions and the snow totals kept climbing, Sundance residents were mostly continuing with business as usual.

It seemed that Sundance might escape the worst of it until late on Wednesday, just as the blizzard was meant to be tapering off. The storm warning was extended by a full extra day as even more snow arrived to make its presence felt and the strong winds continued even after the snow itself was done.

The blizzard warning finally came to an end on Friday morning, by which time up to 26 inches had fallen in parts of Crook County. This was the snowfall total measured four miles northwest of Hulett, the highest amount in the county.

Elsewhere, the Devils Tower area saw 20 inches of snow fall, while 18 inches were recorded 15 miles northwest of Alva and 16 inches south of Beulah. Southeast of Sundance, the official total was 15 inches, with 14 inches northwest of New Haven and 12 inches near Colony.

The highest recorded snowfall in the overall region was 48 inches at Cheyenne Crossing and Deadwood in South Dakota. On the Wyoming side of the border, Gillette topped the scale with 22.7 inches in the downtown area.

The National Weather Service did not release data on peak wind gusts for Crook County. Downtown Gillette, however, saw winds of 57 mph and Four Corners experienced gusts of 53 mph.

The maximum recorded wind gusts in the overall region were near Wasta in Pennington County, SD, at 70 mph.

Polar plunge

The storm may have ended, but the extreme weather continues. Frigid temperatures will continue all week, with wind chills expected to drop as low as -40 to -60 degrees Fahrenheit by Thursday morning. Frostbite and hypothermia will be of serious concern while this weather pattern continues. The National Weather Service warns that frostbite can occur within five to ten minutes beginning at wind chills around -30 to -35.

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