January in April

January in April

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.

Are you allowed to go to South Dakota and not take a picture of a Bison?
Are you allowed to go to South Dakota and not take a picture of a Bison? I am not sure, but we didn’t want to take chances.

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.

People say that there isn't anything to see in Nebraska. I disagree in this picture you can see that there are dead bugs on our window.
People say that there isn’t anything to see in Nebraska. I disagree, in this picture you can see that there are dead bugs on our windshield.

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.

We had a herd of 13 deer wandering around the park.  Our RV makes a good place to take pictures and just watch the wildlife.  They don't seem to mind the wind. January weather in April.
We had a herd of 13 deer wandering around the park. Our RV makes a good place to take pictures and just watch the wildlife. They don’t seem to mind the wind.

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.

Windy

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.

Mule deer at Angostura State Park
Mule deer at Angostura State Park

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

Campsite White Sands Missile Range White Sands New Mexico
Campsite White Sands Missile Range White Sands New Mexico before we were hit with seventy-knot winds.

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.

This was our travel day between Nebraska and just after our arrival in South Dakota.
This was our travel day between Nebraska and just after our arrival in South Dakota. It looks very nice but don’t think we were not wearing our coats while sitting in the sun.

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.

Our car covered with ice at Angostura State Park More January weather in April.
Our car was covered with ice the next day at Angostura State Park. Did I mention that we don’t own an ice scraper?

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.

Mule deer at Angostura State Park
Mule deer at Angostura State Park

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).

Snow

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.

Five inches of South Dakota snow on our expected departure day. We had a full week of January weather in April.
Five inches of South Dakota snow on our expected departure day. We had a full week of January weather in April.

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.

We had the kayaks off the car hoping to walk over to the water all week. More January weather in April.
We had the kayaks off the car hoping to walk over to the water all week. After the winds came the snow and the kayaks only got wet one time, wet and cold, as you can see in this picture.

Driving South

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.

Tami took this picture later on our snow day. As you can see the snow is beginning to melt. When January weather arrives in April at least the snow doesn't last very long.
Tami took this picture later on our snow day. As you can see the snow is beginning to melt.

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.

Links to places mentioned in this article.

Lake Ogallala State Recreation Area

Angostura State Park

15 thoughts on “January in April”

    1. I’m glad you had a laugh. We are having a great time, the weather didn’t slow us down much, except in Nebraska.

  1. In Nevada, the saying is wait 5 minutes, and the weather will change again.

    We have had winds but not like what you are dealing with.

    Yesterday it was 45-50 degs windy and drizzling. Today it is 72 degrees and calm.

    The weather is what it is. On our trip to TX & NE we were lucky with the days we flew. We could not pick and chose what days we flew. If we were delayed we could have been stuck for days because all flights were full.

    Safe travels my friend.

  2. Hi Tami and Scott, I would be interested in hearing how your coach handled on the ice and snow-covered roads in the wind.?

    1. We do pretty well with a 15-knot crosswind component at full speed (full speed is about 60 unless we have a tailwind). As for ice and snow, I’m going to let some other test pilot figure that out.

  3. LOTS to see in Nebraska! LOTS of bugs on your windshield! Ha ha! We’ve been there, have that tee shirt.

    Btw, July and August are blisteringly hot, so I wouldn’t go to Nebraska then.

    Brook

  4. We have stayed at Lake McConaughy and enjoyed our stay there. The winds here in Arizona are brutal also.
    One reason we chose Florida as our domicile, is that our driver’s licenses are for 7 years and renewable online, and our vehicles have option of 2 year tags and also renewable online (no inspections). Makes it easy to do on the road.

    Enjoy Idaho!

  5. I realize Nebraska is flat, but saying the only interesting things to see there are bugs on the windshield indicates you have never traveled in Nebraska.

    Hills, valleys, lakes, trees, museums, wildlife, people, and towns with character are only part of what you skipped over.

    The Sandhills crane migration alone is the only one of its kind in the world.

    Hallmark Cards was a product of a David City, Nebraska resident and plastic sheeting was invented by Harold Warp, son of an immigrant who settled in Minden, Nebraska.

    Pioneer Village there has many relevant historical things available for educating the masses if they only stop by.

    Check it out the next time you are passing thru. Get off I 80 and you will be amazed. Check out ethnic areas and have a Runza in Lincoln.

    1. John, sorry I touched a nerve. We love Nebraska but this time was the only time we followed Interstate 80 and only did this because of the threat of severe weather.

      This time we quickly moved westbound on I-80 starting in Elm Creek and then stayed in Ogallala for three days hiding from the wind storm. Because of the weather we missed staying in North Platte and Valentine. Ogallala was a backup plan.

      Most of the bugs on our windshield were picked up in Oklahoma and Kansas.

      So far we have camped in six different locations in Nebraska. Fort Robinson, of the six, is our favorite. Watch for an article soon about Stone Henge in Nebraska (we also saw a different one in Washington State).

      Of course, the essence of this article is that we were too far north too early in the year and had to pick our timing between storms to move when the weather was good.

      Will we be back in Nebraska… it is our plan and we loved the Sand Hill Cranes walking through our campground in Florida.

  6. Eileen & Bryan

    I agree with Brenda; great writing! We, too, have been suffering stronger than “normal” winds much of this spring – and are currently headed into Nebraska and then up to North Dakota. Our most recent challenge is that the campground where we booked is not opening, due to flooding on the Red River. Safe travels to you both. – Eileen & Bryan

  7. Eileen & Bryan

    Oops, I forgot to say, we are also stopping in South Dakota to domicile there. Previously domiciled in Florida, we realized changing to SD was worth 2 points of sales tax on our new rig – an easy decision! Plus, insurance for the rig and toad are cheaper in SD than in Florida (but both way more than when we had an S&B in New Hampshire.)

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