Early morning freezing rain caused backups for the Friday commute
RAPID CITY, S.D. — Freezing rain caused a chaotic Friday morning commute from Wall to Piedmont. Interstate 90 was filled with backups as semi trucks and cars slid off the road.
So, you may be wondering, how did it rain in South Dakota in the middle of January, and why was that such as problem?
Normally, we see snow in winter, where the air temperature is below freezing from the clouds all the way to the ground. The snowflakes can all stay frozen as they fall down to us.
Other times, we see sleet, when there’s a thin warm layer wedged somewhere in the cold atmosphere. In the warmth, the snowflakes melt, and they refreeze once they hit cold air again. They’ve lost their structure though, so they refreeze as little pellets.
In the case of freezing rain, the air in the atmosphere is above freezing temperature, all the way to the ground. So, the precipitation comes down as a liquid, but the air right at the ground or the surface itself is so cold that the supercooled droplets freeze on contact, creating a layer of ice. This layer can glaze over your vehicle and the roads.
“The Sheriff’s Office and Patrol and some Rapid City PD units responded out to the interstate, I think like mile marker 60, mile marker 72, and mile marker 107, for vehicles in the ditch, semis wrecked, turned over,” explains Sergeant Billy Davis with the Pennington County Sheriff’s Office.
“The biggest thing with driving on the ice is they say to slow down and be patient. Don’t get hard on the accelerator, don’t get hard on the brakes, if you feel like you’re losing control, you shouldn’t hit the brakes immediately, you should let off the gas, and see if you can regain control, because as soon as you hit the brakes you lose everything,” Sergeant Davis adds.
He also says not to get overly confident in your four-wheel drive.
“Four wheel drive makes you go places, but it doesn’t help you stop any faster than anything else,” says Sergeant Davis.
He adds that drivers should add extra time to their travel plans in inclement weather, and slow down.