It is like January in April here in South Dakota. I got this phrase from one of the residents here and he agrees that it is unseasonably cold. Yes, we have friends who live in South Dakota year-round. They said that this recent storm was like January weather. Thus the title is January in April.
Complaining about the weather
We are legal “South Dakotans” and complaining about the weather is part of the game. So here goes another post complaining about the weather. As South Dakotans, we will return again, but next time we are not going to do that before May. We have also felt the icy South Dakota winds in October.
Go to South Dakota between May and September. April and October can be very cold and snowy especially when you are “west river”.
The last time I complained about the weather, we were in Kansas. In that post, I was congratulating myself for avoiding even worse weather further south. While we were in South Dakota the south, including areas we crossed less than a month prior, had severe thunderstorms with tornados. To put it in perspective we were cold, but not in danger. Here is a link to that post. Into the cold, ahead of the storms.
Worse in Nebraska
Oklahoma and Kansas were cold, but nothing like Nebraska. Since entering Nebraska, the weather has been even worse. We crossed through the east in March to get out of the areas in the midwest and south impacted by the biggest and most dangerous storms. Lots of people have it much worse than we have had it. Still, if I had to do it all over again we wouldn’t be in South Dakota (or Nebraska) this time of year.
Blame me (and the government)
I can’t blame the cold weather here in South Dakota on the government. Nor can I blame the wind last week in Nebraska on the government. But I can blame my presence in both places on the government at least a little bit. We are in South Dakota because to renew our driver’s licenses we are required to be in South Dakota (a very limited explanation of the rules) before we renew.
The other (blame) factor was all my fault. We are in South Dakota in April so we can be in Idaho in May. South Dakota is between Florida and Idaho. If we got lucky (or even just had average weather) we could sneak into South Dakota and get our obligations done without freezing to death.
It is not just Nebraska that is windy at this time of year. Kansas seems to be windy more often than Nebraska. Wyoming is windy most of the year. Colorado, both in the mountains and along the east side of the mountains, can be very windy this time of year. Two weeks ago we revised our route through Nebraska precisely to avoid high winds.
The forecast was for thirty knots with gusts to fifty knots Seeing the forecast two days prior to our arrival in Nebraska, I needed a new plan. We needed a place to sit tight for the three-day wind storm. Hopefully out of the wind. The place I chose was Ogallala, specifically at the East campground at Ogallala State Park. This campground had sites where we could align the RV with the wind. The forecast stated the wind would be from the Northwest. Most importantly the east campground is tucked to the east side of the dam on McConaughy Lake. The wind was howling across the lake for three days but we were below the lake level at the afterbay and didn’t have to suffer direct blasts. It was still windy, but it could have been worse.
While we were hiding from the wind in Ogallala some semi-trucks blew over blocking the highway just east of Ogallala.
Much worse wind than Nebraska
We have camped in worse winds before in New Mexico. In that wind storm at White Sands Missile Range, the Army closed the entire base all because of the wind. I was stunned. The Army doesn’t close. During that storm, we went to full turtle mode. Like a turtle does when facing a threat, we pulled in anything that stuck out. Here is a link to that story. Turtle mode at White Sands Missile Range
This time, the wind wasn’t as bad, it only sustained thirty knots rather than seventy knots, and this time we didn’t have to turtle.
January weather in April
So after the wind storm, we went to Angostura State Park in South Dakota. This made for a longer drive than we usually make and we drove and arrived between storms. We timed it so that we could drive on the only nice day. From then on the wind picked up for the next four days.
The wind wasn’t as bad as it was in Nebraska but it wasn’t fun either. We were camped right on the edge of this beautiful mountain lake rocked by constant twenty knots of wind. Again we were on the downwind side of the lake but this time we didn’t have the protection of the dam.
It wasn’t until Wednesday when the weather turned real sour (January in April) and while meeting up with friends in Sturgis we saw our first blowing snow. Even though we were having a great time, we decided to call an early end to an (extra-long) late lunch so that we wouldn’t have to drive home after dark in blowing snow. We were surprised that twenty miles east of Sturgis it quit snowing. The wind was still howling but the sky was clear.
Plenty of time, to get the timing right
Built into our trip across Nebraska and South Dakota we planned to have plenty of flexibility so that we could time our movements when the weather was good. It worked, we had all our business done on Wednesday and the wind was expected to die down late on Thursday. We expected a cold but calm drive south on Friday. We still had our camping spot until Sunday but Friday was the right time to leave (or so we thought).
On Friday morning we awoke to snow (January in April). Nearly five inches covered everything. We knew that Friday wasn’t going to be a driving day as soon as we looked out the window. This was another curveball, but we didn’t have to leave, so again we sat.
By noon the snow started melting on the “sunny” side of the RV. The park rangers ran up and down the roads with the snowplow and I started digging out both sides of the RV so that we could leave on Saturday. It didn’t take too much digging but I did take the opportunity during the afternoon to clear off all the slide toppers. If the snow on these fabric awnings would have frozen solid overnight, leaving on Saturday would not have happened. The RV roof was still covered with snow. Removing the snow from the slide toppers worked, the overnight freeze-up didn’t delay our departure on Saturday.
Had we left on Friday, we would have been able to drive in almost no wind. That didn’t happen. Crossing back into Nebraska southbound the wind picked up again and is still blowing today (Sunday, April 17th). This time the wind is expected to die down on Monday. So Monday is our next projected move day and we will knock off another hundred miles of our journey, this time into Colorado.
Not campfire weather
Part of the reason I am presenting this is that when you full time in an RV it is not an endless vacation. We knew the reality when we started. Today, starting right now until the wind starts blowing again, we may have the best weather we have had for the last two months. Alas, the wind is going to start again in about an hour, this time from the north.