South Dakota plow drivers rescue 50 people in mid-December snowstorm

South Dakota plow drivers rescue 50 people in mid-December snowstorm
Published: Jan. 2, 2023 at 8:17 PM CST
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) -The plow drivers across the state get behind the wheel to ensure the roads are driveable. Sometimes they go above and beyond.

“It’s not our job to rescue, but when we’re called upon, we go and do it,” says Jim Lolley, SD DOT Maintenance Supervisor in Murdo.

“To save these people they’ve never met before,” adds Jason Humphrey, SD DOT Pierre Region Engineer.

When a mid-December storm swept across the state, the hardest-hit areas needed to close. Lolley says once the interstates close, they check for vehicles.

“We made the sweep with a highway patrolman. And then it was the visibility, and the blowing snow was so bad, we pulled the trucks off the road and were here at the shop,” said Lolley.

To his surprise, people still ventured out.

“And they tried to take the secondary roads, and that’s when they got in trouble,” said Lolley.

According to Humphrey, hundreds of vehicles were stranded, but not all were abandoned.

“Well over 50 people that we rescued during the storm,” said Humphrey.

“We’d get to one rescue, and next thing you knew, another call would come in. You’d have to go get another one. You’d load them up. We had the sheriff or the highway patrolman following us,” said Lolley.

Everyone worked together, saving lives.

“The South Dakota department’s one big family; we’re just one team. I mean, they go above and beyond; the highway patrol, they help us too. Everybody just all comes down,” said Lolley.

These heroes behind the plow hope to make it home to their families too.

“We don’t require anybody to risk their lives to go out and rescue people and perform these types of duties. But every time we asked, we had people willing to volunteer,” said Humphrey.

“They would just say, ‘yep, I will go,’ risking their lives to save someone else’s life. So that’s just what we do in the department,” said Lolley.

“It really does put them in the hero status, and I couldn’t be more proud of our team,” said Humphrey.

As concerning weather makes another appearance, those who are ready to rescue hope they won’t have to answer the call.

“Stay home when conditions are bad and try and keep yourself out of harm’s way,” said Humphrey.

Both men checked historical records and could not find another storm where 50 or more people were rescued. The team’s life-saving measures are a new record in the state.