Storm impacts government, business concerns

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Posted: Thursday, March 21, 2019 3:38 pm

In advance of last week’s blizzard, school in the Agar-Blunt-Onida School District was cancelled on Wednesday and Thursday.

Most Onida businesses were open Wednesday and closed Thursday with normal business resuming Friday. State offices were closed from Wednesday until noon on Friday, and impacted Federal offices closed at noon on Wednesday and reopened at noon on Friday. County and city offices were closed on Thursday. City Finance Officer Rondha Hiller says that the Onida city crews went to work clearing snow from Onida streets as soon as the wind went down on Thursday.

For businesses where taking time off was not an option such as at the DNA Genetics pig barn west of Onida, personnel arranged to ride out the storm at work.

“When we know there’s going to be a bad storm, we ask somebody to stay,” said manager Matt Rogers. “It was my turn.”

Matt says that the DNA crew completed their work early Wednesday, so he was able to go home and do chores and eat supper. When he returned to the facility at 6:00 p.m. that evening, he found no issues until the last mile. “The first thirty feet was drifted, so I had to do a little scoop shovel work. After that, everything was good.”

Large drifts developed at the facility during the storm. “Two of our fans drifted shut, and I had to get out the hose and wash the snow away from the fans to get them to run.” By 8:00 a.m. on Friday, the road to the facility had been reopened by the Sully County Highway Department plows.

Matt says the greater impact from the storm for his business will be the flooding taking place in Columbus, Nebraska, where the DNA Genetics home office is located. “There are going to be some headaches for the company on shipping logistics the next few weeks.”

Highway Patrol Sgt. JP Stahl spent the night on Highway 14 after getting ensnared in a snow drift. Working with two Department of Transportation snow plows, Stahl says he was going to the US Highway 83 and 14 junction to get a trooper that was stranded there.

“There were motorists stranded on Highway 14 Wednesday night,” said Stahl. “The Pierre city plows had gone out, but couldn’t get through the first drift, so the two DOT plows went out.”

In combination, the two plows were able to bust through a large drift, and the stranded motorists were rescued by a Hughes County Deputy Sheriff.

With the road becoming increasingly impassable, Stahl was working to return to Pierre. The drift that had been opened 45 minutes earlier had drifted closed, and the snow plow “dropped in.” Stahl says he and the two snow plow drivers were stuck there for about nine hours starting at 10:30 p.m. until another DOT crew arrived with a blower equipped payloader and a maintainer on Thursday. The other stranded trooper was rescued by an Oahe Electric crew and spent the night in Blunt.

Stahl was prepared for the winter emergency with a full tank of gas and extra clothes, but says getting stranded was “a good reminder of how bad things can get.”

He offers praise for the DOT crews and says, “It’s amazing, the hours those guys put in.”

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