It came as no surprise. The first winter storm was on everyone’s radar since the end of last week.
Various estimates leading up to the storm suggested snow fall in Gillette would vary from a couple inches to maybe a half foot.
“When it comes to Mother Nature, you never know,” Streets Manager Troy Tyrrell said while his crew converged on the snow-blanketed community. “We had all hands on deck for two days.”
Two days of snow is exactly what fell on Gillette. To be exact, the National Weather Service (NWS) Rapid City confirmed Thursday the storm brought 13.8 inches of snow to the downtown area.
The storm forced the City of Gillette, Campbell County School District, Gillette College, Campbell County, and many small businesses to shut down on Wednesday. It also led to the implementation of Level 1 and Level 2 snow emergencies for the first time in a year and a half.
NWS Meteorologist Em Wong noted that parts of Campbell County just a few miles west and in the Rozet area received 18 inches total. She added that four miles southeast of Gillette set a same-day record with six inches of snow in a 24-hour period.
The storm also knocked out power to 2,300 addresses in Rozet and surrounding areas for more than 12 hours. All service had been restored as of noon Thursday.
The storm showed no mercy with its two days of precipitation. Its early arrival dropped six inches of snow on Tuesday and followed that with 7.8 inches on Wednesday, according to Wong.
“It was a really good storm for Gillette,” Wong said. “The 13.8 inches is way more than the monthly average for downtown Gillette.”
The October average snowfall for the Energy Capital is 3.7 inches and 1.17 of measurable precipitation. It was a welcomed storm for an area still suffering with drought conditions, as Gillette is now 10.1 inches above the monthly snow average. The storm makes it the sixth snowiest October in history, with still half of the month to go.
The moisture was welcome, but did very little to address the ongoing drought facing Campbell County. With the exception of the very southeast corner of the county, the area remains in the Extreme Drought D3 level designation by the U.S. Drought Monitor, which updated its warnings on Thursday.
The storm created havoc for many in town but was a welcomed day off from school and work for others. Resident Jose Cardenas thought it was just going to be a typical drive to work on a fall day, but it cost him $100 and time from work.
“I thought once I got out to Douglas Highway, I would be alright,” Cardenas said Wednesday. “That was only about a half-mile away. I didn’t make it because the gravel road was too deep, and I have good tires on my car. Well, I thought I did.”
In downtown, there were business owners and employees shoveling snow all day in order to keep the sidewalks clear.
“We were just out here two hours ago and shoveled a bunch of inches so people can get to us on the sidewalk,” said Kim Watkins, and employee in the downtown area.
“Look, the sidewalk is gone again. Thank goodness everyone is so understanding and caring. A father and son even helped us shovel this morning when it was all snow on top of ice. We have a caring community. I never got their name, but I thank them.”
The abundance of snow also paved the way for some snowball fights from kids home for the day.
“I thought I would be at school when I woke up,” said Kenny Moran. “Nope, I got to stay home and hit my friends with snowballs.”
Of course, there is never a free day off from school. This was one of two snow days scheduled into the Campbell County School District calendar which will be made up in February.
According to the NWS, there may not be another snow day this month. The next 10 days appears to be above warmer temperatures with below average precipitation. As for Halloween, Wong said she can’t predict the weather for that weekend just yet.
“Next week, we will have a better idea,” she said.