Shoveling, shivering and school cancelations have become frequent occurrences as Flandreau closed out the snowiest February on record last week.
The area saw 32.8 inches of snow fall last month, surpassing 23.5 in both 1969 and 1936, which included an extra day because it was a leap year, according to data from the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls.
The snow comes from a robust front that is tapping into moisture from the gulf to produce snow even in some really cold temperatures, said Brad Adams, weather observing program coordinator. “It’s just an active pattern,” he said. “It’s a more progressive pattern.”
The biggest snowfall in February was on Feb. 20-21 when Flandreau got a combined total of 9.9 inches.
Since Oct. 1 through March 1, Flandreau has received 67.6 inches, surpassing the record of 59 inches in 2011, NWS data shows. The latest total includes 5.3 inches last Friday.
It’s been cold but there have been only seven days – three in January and four in February – when the daily temperature didn’t creep above zero, Adams said.
For the month of February, the average high temperature was 13.1 degrees. The average low was 5.1 degrees below zero.
All this snow, blowing snow and deep-freeze temperatures have meant that school kids stayed home more days than normal. Since returning to school in January, Flandreau Public School students have had only one full week of classes, which was the week of Jan. 7-11. The first snow day for missed school was Jan. 18.
So far, school has been cancelled eight days plus one day for teacher conferences and has started late another five days. The district’s policy is to make those days up at the end of the school year. If students have to make up all of the missed school days because of snow, they will be going to class until May 30 at this point. May 17 originally was the planned last day of school.
Superintendent Rick Weber said the discussion on make-up days is typically at the April meeting. The final decision is made by the school board.
“We still have March and April,” Weber said. March can be one of the snowiest month and last April brought a blast of winter conditions that set a record for snowfall.
Lately, snow days have just been more concentrated. “It just seems to be a lot more packed into a shorter amount of time,” Weber said. Everyone is feeling the interrupted schedules. “It obviously affects not only the students but the staff as well.”
Inside the school offices, Principal Nichole Herzog’s office is a visible reminder of what is stacking up outside. With the exception of one small corner, her entire window is covered by a snow pile.
The school parking lot has mountains of snow that surpass the height of busses in places. In other spots, hills of snow have been pushed together to clear spots for cars to park.
Around town, intersections have snow piled high enough to prevent drivers from seeing oncoming cars. City maintenance employees continue to work on those corners, removing snow and hauling it away to provide better accessibility and safety, said Jeff Pederson, city administrator.
“That’s still consuming our people all day,” he said. “It’s just tough conditions out there.”
The city has paid about $10,000 in overtime so far in its efforts to keep streets clear during a winter that has dished out snow, wind and a lack of any thaw.
“It’s a very unusual level of work that this weather pattern has resulted in for the city crews,” Pederson said. “In years like this, the cost is probably going to exceed the budget. It’s just going to result in reallocation,” he said of city money that will be used to pay for the necessary plowing and removal of snow.
In the country, winds easily blow around the light powder left by storms, causing high drifts in many places and extra plowing.
The county will have paid out half of its budgeted overtime within the highway department by the end of February, said Marty Skroch, human resources manager. He estimated about 120 hours were used by the end of February in a budget that accounts for just short of 200 hours.
Summer usually is the time when more of the overtime budget is spent, he said.
“Our busiest overtime season is still coming,” he said.
Extra winter work has meant equipment repairs, too, Skroch said. “We’ve been struggling with breakdowns. We’re going to have a lot of repair costs.”
The first sign of spring-like weather could come in mid-March, Adams said. While it is too early to say for sure, advanced predictions show it may mean temperatures could be higher than normal and allow for some snow to melt. Where that will fall is a guess at this point.
Typically, March has average lows of 14 degrees and highs of 33 degrees at the beginning of the month, according to NWS data. At the end of the month, that average increases to 26 degrees for a low and 47 degrees for the high.
But anyone who has ever lived in South Dakota knows that March often can be one of the snowiest months.
What are the odds that this winter will mean even more records are broken?
At this point, it’s a guess.
“It could be a doozey if we stay active into March,” Adams said.