Drivers, city street departments prepare for blizzard

Published: Jan. 14, 2021 at 6:53 PM CST
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WATERTOWN, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - As tonight’s blizzard conditions set in across eastern South Dakota, street crews will be limited in what they can do to keep roads clear. And that means it won’t be safe for drivers either, said Watertown Streets Department Superintendent Rob Beynon.

“When the wind’s blowing like this, it’s not safe for anybody to be out there.” said Beynon.

Beynon said that crews spent the day preparing roads to the best of their ability, but said it won’t keep them clear as the strong winds continued into the night.

“When it’s this windy out, 40 mph plus, you can plow through something and less than five minutes later, it might be two feet deep before you plow it and by five minutes later it’s two feet deep again.”

And those changing road conditions are hazardous for drivers and crews alike. Trooper Karlea Larson of the South Dakota Highway Patrol said that when forecasts show weather conditions deteriorating, and when no travel advisories and road closures are put in place, drivers need to be paying attention and plan ahead before getting on the road.

“When there’s the road closures, and the no travel advisory, it’s not put out there lightly. Like they mean that you shouldn’t be driving so pay attention to that.” Larson said.

Beynon said it’s not just a hazard for drivers in these conditions, but for road crews and plow drivers as well, as the low visibility affects what they can see and how others see them on the road.

“But when you can’t see the road it’s not safe for anybody. And when the wind is blowing and you have zero visibility, even with all of the lights on our machines, there’s a lot of times we have close calls because people just can’t see the machines.” Beynon said.

Beynon said that Watertown Street Deparment crews will begin work again Friday morning starting at four, to clear any drifts and help clear routes to workplaces.

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