Some people said it was all just hype by the weather service and it would surely not happen as forecast, but it did. The worst October blizzard in the Black Hills of South Dakota in recorded history (since 1880) did happen. Winter storm Atlas arrived in the Black Hills, and boy, did it pack a punch!
It all started on October 3rd with rain and high winds. By Friday, October 4th, the rain had turned into snow, and winds were blowing at 40-50 mph with gusts of 70 mph. As we had our furnace repaired the day before, we just decided to hunker down and ride it out. My husband returned from work early, barely managing to safely navigate the 5.5 miles between his office and our house in the blowing snow that had already started accumulating in the streets. We ate hot dinner, and just as we were finishing our meal, the mayhem began.
First, the power started flickering on and off, then it completely went out. In the dark, we could hear the wind howling and the tree limbs cracking under the weight of the heavy, wet snow. Then, the power briefly came back on, just in time for us to hear a massive crack and crash. As we looked into our backyard, we saw that a huge limb had fallen off our old Chinese elm tree, catching the power line and bringing our electrical mast down.
The smartest thing at that point was to turn off all power to the house, and as the power company could not do it remotely (or so they said), the next best thing was to shut off the main breaker. That left us in the dark and without heating, with temperatures dropping rapidly, and wind continuing to howl at between 40 and 70 mph.
Next, we heard another cracking and crashing sound, and felt the whole house shake. One of our younger locust trees had bent under the weight of snow and finally snapped, taking down with it the power line between our house and the garage.
As there was nothing we could do about it at the moment, we snuggled down in our sleeping bags determined to ride the night out on the dining room floor, watching to make sure the downed power lines in our backyard don’t set fire to the house.
By the morning, Rapid City had received 31 inches of heavy, wet snow, with high drifts formed by the wind in some places. Other areas in the Black Hills got more than 50 inches of the wet, white stuff in less than 24 hours.
We barely managed to dig our front door out and take our poor English Setter on a potty break. We had to trudge through the snow in our front yard and in the street as his beloved backyard had been rendered hazardous by the downed power line and fallen tree limbs. This is how the backyard devastation looked after most of the snow had melted.
And from a different angle…
The front yard didn’t look much better either, but at least we didn’t have to worry that any of the fallen limbs in that area damaged any part of our house.
It is just pity that these old, tall evergreens would have to be cut down. The wind did quite a number on them.
After all was said and done, we were thankful that our house didn’t sustain any major damage. We did spend full six days without power, telephone, and Internet access, which meant I lost a whole week of pay since I couldn’t sign into work, but the important thing is that we are all uninjured, and the damage to the house and garage can easily be repaired in the next couple of weeks.
True, it will take a while to clean up the mess of broken, tangled branches left in our yard…
…and the poor old Chinese elm would have to be cut down sooner than we thought as it poses a danger to both our and the next door neighbor’s house now that it has lost a few big branches and ended up quite unbalanced.
One fun thing coming out of all this is that, when we are old and grey, we will be able to tell stories of the “great blizzard of 2013” to younger generations.