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Sunday, May 1, 2016

White Christmas: Le Mars gets wrapped under 13-17 inches of snow

Monday, December 28, 2009

(Sentinel photo by Beverly Van Buskirk) Houses in Le Mars, such as this one on Evelyn Drive, were wrapped with snow following the slow moving storm which dumped up to 17 inches of snow in Le Mars from Wednesday through Saturday. The snowfall assured everyone of a "White Christmas" but left area residents with hours of work to dig out from under the white blanket and disrupted many holiday plans and gatherings.
Pounded with more than a foot of snow and whipping winds, Le Mars hunkered down for a very merry blizzard this Christmas.

"The snow just kept coming and coming," said Fire Chief Wayne Schipper, who also serves as the city's chief of emergency operations. "But everything went smooth here."

While 13 to 17 inches of snow blanketed Le Mars according to the National Weather Service, surrounding cities Sioux Falls, S.D. and Sioux City were buried under 19-20 inches.

National Weather Service meteorologist Todd Heitkamp said the Sioux Falls area has never seen this white of a Christmas.

"We broke the records around here for snowfall around Christmas with 19 inches," he said.

That makes this Christmas storm the fourth biggest snowfall on record for Sioux Falls.

The National Weather Service labeled the storm "life-threatening" urging people to stay home for the holidays.

"With prolonged snowfall and it being over the Christmas holiday with people wanting to travel, that all made it potentially life threatening," Heitkamp said.

The constant flurries kept plows out on the roads through the holiday.

"We didn't have a Christmas," said Steve Hansen, Le Mars' superintendent of public works. "We worked straight through. We did take a couple of hours off to eat with our families."

Starting between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., the city plow crew pulled 12-14 hour shifts.

The last time Hansen remembers a Christmas like this was 20 years ago.

With big drifts around town and wind expected, Hansen reminded Le Mars residents that odd-even parking is still in effect.

People should park their cars on the odd side of the street on odd-numbered days, starting at 6 p.m. the day before, and on the even side of the street on even numbered days.

"And slow down," Hansen said. "The intersections will have drifts at the corners so people won't be able to see cross traffic as well. And keep an eye out for the plows."

Tom Rohe, Plymouth County engineer, said his crew was busy plowing county roads over Christmas, too.

"We worked every day and they're at it again," he said. "The paved roads are open but right now there are quite a few gravel roads still blocked."

His crew will be back on the gravel roads to open them up today, he said.

Rohe urged drivers to travel with caution and slow down.

"This is one of those winters where we just have to work our way through it," Rohe said. "We keep digging away."

No one was seriously injured in accidents over Christmas, according to Kirk Hatting at the Plymouth County Communications Center.

We had a lot of people in the ditch," he said. "People just drove in the ditch because they couldn't see."

At the Le Mars nursing homes and hospital, staff made arrangements to stay and care for the residents and patients.

"For people who were stuck out in the country, people in town took their places, and some out of town people stay on the premises or in a hotel," said Schipper, chief of emergency operations.

Near Brunsville, a machine shed roof collapsed under the weight of the snow Christmas night.

Lynn and LaNette Buss looked out their window and saw the building -- sans roof -- the next day.

"That was kind of a surprise," Lynn Buss said. "I had packed everything I could in there to get it out of the storm -- tractors, pickups, feed wagons."

The full damage is yet to be known.

"I know one pickup the whole box got flattened," he said.

Luckily, his loader tractor wasn't in the machine shed so he could still use it to scoop the snow, he added.

He'll probably be needing it, according to meteorologist Heitkamp.

"We'll have a windy day tomorrow, which will probably reduce visibility with blowing snow," Buss said.

The next chance of snow isn't until Saturday, and even that is minor, Heitkamp said.

But the snow Le Mars has today will be sticking around for a while, he added.

"The only time we can expect a thaw is March and April," Heitkamp said.

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