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Over 10,000 South Dakotans without power as Winter Storm Wesley continues into Friday

Total snowfall accumulations predicted in South Dakota between Wednesday, April 10 and Friday, April 12, according to the National Weather Service. Totals updated as of Wednesday morning. Image courtesy of the National Weather Service.

As Winter Storm Wesley starts its third day of snow and wind gusts, thousands of South Dakotans have been left without power.

According to the South Dakota Rural Electric Association, over 10,000 South Dakotans are without power as of Thursday, April 11 evening. The majority of these residents were in the southeastern portion of the state in Minnehaha and Lake Counties. Each were reported Thursday evening to have 3,000 and 2,000 customers without power, respectively.

Director of the Department of Public Safety (DPS)’s Office of Emergency Management Tina Titze said that many of these outages have been caused by "galloping" power lines due to extreme wind gusts. She said some power lines may be restored relatively quickly while others are more difficult to access and repair during the blizzard.

Titze said for the most part, residents have stayed home during the duration of the blizzard, which helps prevent car accidents requiring DPS or Highway Patrol rescues. With snow predicted to continue into Friday and wind gusting over 40-miles-per-hour, Titze said visibility is still poor and residents should stay off the roads.

As of Thursday evening, Interstate 29 is closed from Sioux Falls to the North Dakota border, and Interstate 90 is closed from Sioux Falls to the Ellsworth Air Force Base, outside of Rapid City, per the state Department of Transportation. The majority of the state's roads remain under a no travel advisory.

State offices were closed in 54 of South Dakota's 66 counties on Thursday, as well.

According to the National Weather Service, the blizzard is expected to continue into Friday, with some areas in the state expected to receive still another six inches of snow. Wind gusts are expected to continue, as well, exceeding 45 miles-per-hour in some areas.

Winter Storm Wesley came less than a month after mid-March's Winter Storm Ulmer, which left much of the state crippled from excessive snowfall, then a rapid melt and subsequent flooding.

Spokesperson Kristin Wileman said the state is still under Republican Gov. Kristi Noem's March 15 emergency declaration from last month's storm. A statewide emergency declaration allows counties to utilize special state disaster funds for relief.

Noem said in a written statement Thursday that this week's storms "come at a difficult time for many South Dakotans who are still recovering from the bomb cyclone last month." She said her office is in touch with local governments to monitor damage and is "assisting with state resources when needed."

"But South Dakotans are a hardy bunch," Noem said. "We’ll get through this.”

Titze said that Wesley isn't expected to cause the same severe flooding as last month's storm. The ground has thawed since then, she said, so it can absorb more melted snow than last month, when the ground was still frozen. And, Titze said temperatures are expected to warm more slowly, so snow melt should occur more gradually.

"Although we’re going to see rivers go up at the gauges again, its not going to be to the levels that we had before," she said.

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