Let’s take a look back at our second blizzard of the year

RAPID CITY, S.D. – The second blizzard of the year was quite a doozy. On many levels, other than snow totals, it was much more impactful than the first one.

While we didn’t see anywhere close to the amount of snow as we did from the first blizzard, where more than three feet fell in some places, this system was still very powerful.

What made this blizzard worse?

There were a few factors that made our most recent blizzard worse than the first one:

  1. Stronger/more consistent winds
  2. Much colder temperatures
  3. Event fatigue from the previous storm

So let’s break these down individually.

Wind:

This system was very fast-moving and driven by strong pressure gradients throughout the atmosphere. Pressure gradients are why we have wind as air flows from high to low pressure.

When we have stronger pressure gradients, the air moves faster. The wind also makes moisture evaporate from your skin more quickly, cooling you down if you have any amount of exposed skin.

Cold:

The record breaking cold temperatures meant that anyone who got stuck would have to deal with the bitter cold. In places like Harding and Perkins Counties, there were multiple reports of wind chills dropping to 60 degrees or more below zero throughout the event.

Whereas, with the last system, temperatures didn’t get nearly as cold. The colder temperature also meant that there was less moisture in the air.

This is why we don’t see a lot of snow when it gets super cold. What it also meant was that the snow we did get was super light and fluffy.

This lighter snow can be carried by the wind more easily, which is why we saw visibility drop to zero at times.

Fatigue:

I’m not a psychologist, but fatigue from large weather events is a real thing. I feel it as a meteorologist too.

This blizzard likely wouldn’t have been as dangerous if we hadn’t gone through one, not even a week before this one. Both blizzards resulted in I-90 being shut down for multiple days.

The second time also happened to be around one of the busiest times of year for travel. All of these factors resulted in people not wanting to be cooped up for another week while they waited for the storm to pass and road conditions to improve.

The small snow total also likely played a role in minimizing the storm. What seems worse: a storm that drops over thee feet of snow, or one with barely an inch of accumulation?

The next time we see an event like this, don’t let the snow maps fool you. The amount of snow that we get doesn’t matter when it’s dangerously cold and visibility is near zero.

As always, please stay safe.

Check out some photos of the conditions during the last blizzard:

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News, Weather Daily