December 18, 1985:
On one of the coldest mornings of the year, most places in South Dakota experienced low temperatures of less than 20 degrees below zero (F). The coldest temperature was 30 below zero at Huron in Beadle County and Canton in Lincoln County. Aberdeen dropped to 22 below zero, Highmore and Mobridge fell to 23 below zero, Britton fell to 24 below zero, and Summit bottomed out at 25 below.
December 18, 1996:
A powerful Alberta Clipper and a slow-moving deep Arctic high pressure system brought widespread prolonged
blizzard conditions to the entire region from the 16th to the 19th. The clipper dropped from 1 to 5 inches
of snowfall on top of the already expansive and deep snow cover of 1 to almost 4 feet. Across central and
north central South Dakota, north winds increased to 25 to 40 mph with gusts to 55 mph late in the morning
of the 16th. Temperatures also fell, and widespread blizzard conditions and dangerous wind chills of 40 to
70 below zero developed, prevailing through noon on the 18th. Across northeast South Dakota, conditions
changed through late in the day of the 16th, with widespread blowing snow, falling temperatures and dangerous
wind chills. Widespread blizzard conditions developed on the morning of the 17th and continued into the
evening of the 18th. Conditions changed throughout the afternoon of the 16th in west central Minnesota, with
a full-fledged blizzard by the morning of the 17th.
North winds of 30 to 40 mph gusting to 50 mph brought visibilities to near zero and caused heavy drifting, making travel difficult. Many people had to be rescued from their vehicles after getting stuck in large snowdrifts or going into ditches because of low visibilities. Some people had to wait to be rescued for many hours, for some over a day. Due to the massive amount of blowing snow, widespread heavy drifting occurred across the entire area, blocking roads, making travel difficult, and leaving some people stranded to wait out the storm. Some snowdrifts from the storm were as high as 15 feet with a few houses almost buried. A Burlington Northern locomotive became stuck in a 12-foot drift near Hazel and had to be dug out. Due to the weight of the snow, the roof of a hanger at the Gettysburg Airport collapsed onto an airplane, crushing the plane.
All schools were let out early on the 16th with some schools not reopening until the 20th. Several school buses went into the ditch or got stuck in drifts and had to be pulled out. There were several accidents, most with minor injuries; however, one accident in Dewey county resulted in serious injury. Most of the roads, state highways and Interstate 90 were closed for a day or two until road crews could get to them. This left many people stranded to wait out the storm. Interstate 29 also received heavy drifting, with parts of it closed for a while during the storm. Most snow plows had to be called back, because they could not see the roads or the roads would be drifted over shortly after they were plowed. Some county snow removal budgets were already depleted or were close to being depleted. Emergency personnel and road crews were working extended hours to keep up with the storm. Rescue vehicles had a difficult time responding to emergencies. In one case, a lady from Mobridge had to be brought to Aberdeen. The 100-mile trip took six hours. Also, a rural Westport man died because the rescue units could not get to him in time.
Airports were closed or flights were canceled or delayed. Mail was delayed for some people up to several days with a huge backup of Christmas packages. Some government offices and many businesses were closed for several days. All sports and other activities were postponed or canceled. Farmers and ranchers had a difficult time getting feed to their livestock. Many cattle were loose and had to be found as they walked on snow drifts over fences. Several livestock and countless number of pheasants were also killed by the storm with some buried in the snow. Several dairy producers had to dump thousands of pounds of milk, because trucks could not get to them in time. Fortunately, there were only spotty power outages throughout the storm. For several hours on the night of the 16th in the extreme cold, 3000 people in Pierre were without power for several hours.
|Record Highs:||Record Lows:|
|Aberdeen: 58 (1979)||Aberdeen: -28 (1951)|
|Kennebec: 68 (1979)||Kennebec: -30 (1922)|
|Mobridge: 58 (1979)||Mobridge: -26 (1929)|
|Pierre: 63 (1939)||Pierre: -21 (1951)|
|Sisseton: 56 (1979)||Sisseton: -19 (1983)|
|Timber Lake: 58 (1979)||Timber Lake: -26 (1996)|
|Watertown: 56 (1923)||Watertown: -28 (1897)|
|Wheaton: 54 (1923)||Wheaton: -22 (1983)|
|Record Precipitation:||Record Snowfall:|
|Aberdeen: 0.20" (1937)||Aberdeen: 3.5" (1937)|
|Kennebec: 0.13" (1968)||Kennebec: 2.0" (1955)|
|Mobridge: 0.09" (1937)||Mobridge: 2.0" (1990)|
|Pierre: 0.21" (1901)||Pierre: 2.4" (1901)|
|Sisseton: 0.35" (2000)||Sisseton: 3.8" (2000)|
|Timber Lake: 0.13" (2002)||Timber Lake: 2.0" (2002)|
|Watertown: 0.15" (2002)||Watertown: 2.0" (1961)|
|Wheaton: 0.40" (1961)||Wheaton: 4.0" (1961)|