SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — When no travel is advised or an interstate closes, it’s not a reason to check and see how bad it is or use an online map application (app) for another route, officials said this week in South Dakota.
“I think the biggest problem we have is when the interstate closes and (online map app) reroutes them to county roads or highways. (Drivers) aren’t paying attention to road closures,” said Shane Croeni, the sheriff of Hand County in Miller.
A winter storm is predicted for much of South Dakota again this week. Snow and wind could start as early as tonight (April 3) and continue through Wednesday.
There will likely be hours when no travel is advised and roads will be closed.
During a recent storm, Hand County officials had to dig out a woman who was traveling from Florida to Washington. Her online map directed her from the closed I-90 to other nearby roads, Croeni said.
“She was on such a remote rural road,” Croeni said. “She ended up stranded and stuck. She was about 20 miles from the nearest town.”
Drivers also take alternate routes in Hamlin County when the interstate is closed. “People take secondary roads,” said Lt. Tayt Alexander of the Hamlin County Sheriff’s Office.
Brown County Sheriff Dave Lunzman said the winter has brought out plenty of local drivers who think ‘my vehicle can get through anything.’ But the vehicle gets stuck.
When a driver gets stuck it can mean that local emergency personnel have to respond in poor driving conditions. But it can also mean that it’s too dangerous to respond, and unless there is an emergency and drivers may be stuck for the day or night.
“At the Stone Bridge (on Highway 22) we’ve had people stay overnight, until the next day,” Alexander said.
If drivers have enough fuel and food and no need for medications, Lunzman said they will often have to stay in their vehicles until conditions improve.
Croeni said Hand County is lucky enough to have some local farmers who will use tractors to help reach vehicles. A local snowmobile club also allows the county to use a snow machine but it travels at about 15 mph, Croeni said.
“During this last storm we had a rollover by Frederick,” Lunzman said. “First responders had to get there. If they get there, how do they get back?”
One deputy was not able to get back safely. Emergency personnel had to help the deputy who had responded to the rollover crash. Lunzman said.
Drivers need to pay attention to the weather and advisories on travel and road closures, the law enforcement officials said.
“My biggest advice is, these storms are pretty well advertised,” Alexander said. Drivers need to pay attention, he said.
Croeni said some out-of-state travelers during a recent storm passed through at least one town while driving in bad conditions. Instead of stopping in that town, they kept going and got stuck and/or stranded.
In those cases “Everybody relies on technology and common sense goes out the window,” Croeni said.
Truckers that get stuck on the road, especially those from southern states, can tend to keep driving in bad conditions, Lunzman said.
“A lot of times they think they can muscle through,” Lunzman said. And they have ignored advice to stop, he said.
When semi trucks and trailers get stuck and stranded, big drifts form around the vehicle. It makes it more difficult to free them from the snow.
Driving in bad weather and on poor road conditions can lead to crashes.
“I think we’ve had more crashes and more vehicles in the ditch,” Alexander said.
He’s worried about this week because there is a good chance for freezing rain.
“It becomes more challenging for us because if you can only go 20 mph and you are still slipping,” Alexander said.
Law enforcement officials said they know some people will need to be at work during the upcoming storms but they need to plan ahead.
Workers may need to stay with others to eliminate a commute. Lunzman said his office will be ready to help medical personnel get to work if needed.
Generally, people need to pay attention, prepare for bad weather and stay off the roads when weather and road conditions are poor, they said.