South Dakotans faced man sized snow drifts, icy roads, freezing temperatures and even some thunder and lightning on Christmas Day.
Governor Dennis Daugaard declared a state of emergency after a winter storm left motorists stranded and downed power lines.
Brenda Kleinjan with South Dakota Rural Electric Association says around 20,000 people were left without power. As of last night, Kleinjan says power has been restored to about 14,000.
But many are still without electricity. Kleinjan says residents in the northeast and northwest portions of the state can expect power restoration to take a couple of days.
She says it’s been a slow going process getting crews to some of the hardest hit areas.
“In portions of western South Dakota where you had blizzard conditions, they were encountering snow drifts and just bad travel conditions in general to get to the areas where the lines are down. In the northeast part of the state with the icing, there’s very thick ice on the roadways that hampered crews ability to get where they needed to be,” says Kleinjan.
Kleinjan says additional crews have been called in to local co-ops, with workers from Minnesota and Iowa assisting as well.
“One of the main things that we keep stressing is to stay away from downed power lines, assume that they are energized and be reporting those to your local cooperative or to law enforcement, do not drive over downed power lines and if you are using a generator or alternative heating sources to make sure that you are using those appropriately,” says Kleinjan.
Officials want those without power to know that help is available. Jason Bauder is the deputy director of the South Dakota Office of Emergency Management.
“There are shelter locations set up in some of these harder hit areas so if people have a need to go in, warm up, maybe get a snack, or something at the shelter they’re able to do that,” says Bauder.
Bauder says people can find shelter locations by contacting their county emergency manager. He says the shelters are open for those wanting to stay overnight.