Historic Blizzard had Furloughed NWS Employees Hiking to Work - KMSP-TV

Historic Blizzard had Furloughed NWS Employees Hiking to Work

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A snow day might be what many Americans are hoping for… that day where there is so much snow that they can't under any circumstances get to work. So you curl up on the couch in front of a roaring fire, dry, warm, and comfy while waiting for the storm to end and the roads to be cleared. But that's just a dream for those of us in the weather world. Either we are already at work and are stuck there (in many cases, we need to be there anyway to bring you up to the minute information, yes that is part of our job description) or are desperately trying to get to work because we HAVE to be there. No case is more eye opening than in western South Dakota last weekend. As the historic blizzard was finally on its last leg, those employed at the National Weather Service in Rapid City were trying to figure out how to get to work or how to get home. With the city buried under what would be its second biggest snowfall on record of over 2 feet and wind gusts in excess of 70mph, the roads were left with 15 foot snow drifts and were clearly impassible. So the solution of these brave souls…. Mind you, they weren't even getting paid, was to either continue working or hike to work using whatever they could to get there.

The record snowstorm in Rapid City, S.D. buried this Dodge Durango truck. Credit: @MsXtine

This is the account typed into the National Weather Service's chat system by David Carpenter, the meteorologist-in-charge of the Rapid City forecasting office Sunday morning, nearly a day after the storm had ended.

Access to the office is still blocked. Two employees were able to hike in around some obstructions, but it is not possible to drive out of the parking lot due to snow drifts and downed trees in the neighborhood. The Science Operations Officer (one who hiked in) is attempting to take two stranded employees home this morning. One forecaster hiked in for his mid[night] shift last night, and I sent him home so he can come back tonight. Of the three who are on duty at this time, two have been here since 7 a.m. Friday, and I have been here since 3 p.m. Friday. . . .

Rapid City is pretty much paralyzed, and recovery and repair operations are in full swing. We have heard that the governor called in the National Guard. Conference call briefing expected to take place later this morning…

In an interview, Carpenter said four forecasters remained at the office between Friday and Sunday morning, taking cat naps while rotating on and off duty. "Nobody got a lot of sleep," Carpenter said. "Just enough to keep us going as best we could." The forecaster who covered the Saturday midnight shift trekked an hour through massive drifts in the pitch dark to report to work. "He's a pretty hearty soul," Carpenter said. "The drifts came up to the roof of a Ford F-150 pickup truck in our parking lot."

This storm brought 23 to 30 inches of snow to the Rapid City area with as much as 5 feet in the Black Hills just west of town. This will be the snowiest October on record for the Black Hills region and will go down as the 3rd largest snow storm in western South Dakota history.

So if you ever think your job is bad… just imagine the guy walking to work in 15 foot snow drifts, blinding snow, 70 mph winds, and not getting paid for it. Makes all of us thankful for our job AND our snow days!

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