Travelers beware: Winter storm will create difficult conditions

(File image of a snow plow on January 22, 2016)
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PIERRE, S.D. (KEVN/KOTA TV) - A winter storm will impact the region starting Friday night and lasts through the weekend. State and local officials are cautioning travelers that this storm will likely make travel nearly impossible in many areas; especially East River including south-central South Dakota.

You can tune in to our newscasts or go to www.kotatv.com/weather for the latest conditions and weather forecast. The latest forecast from our weather team has significant snow for the South Dakota plains east of the Black Hills, all of East River, western and central Nebraska, eastern North Dakota and northern and western Minnesota. Freezing rain and sleet will also create dangerous travel for eastern South Dakota and southwestern Minnesota. For more details on the forecast, you can also click here.

Officials are encouraging motorists to move up travel plans to avoid the winter storm’s impacts of snow, ice and blowing snow. For the latest road conditions, you can always check www.safetravelusa.com by selecting the state. For South Dakota, you can also call 5-1-1 to check the latest travel advisories before traveling.

Travelers are also reminded that South Dakota Department of Transportation (SDDOT) crews will plow until early evening hours as conditions allow. After that, winter maintenance will be suspended and will resume about 5 a.m. the next morning, weather permitting. Motorists are reminded to give snowplows plenty of room to work and do not pass unless it is safe. The safest place is eight car lengths behind the plow, they are placing chemicals and clearing the road in front of you.

If you must travel, the departments of Transportation and Public Safety recommend travelers also take the following steps:

- Wear your seatbelt
- Travel during the day
- Drive with your headlights on (not daytime running lights) so you can be seen by other motorists from the front and rear
- Use highly traveled roads and highways
- Keep family and friends informed of your travel schedule and route
- Keep a winter weather survival kit in your car. The kit should include blankets, warm clothing, water, energy bars, a flashlight, a distress flag, a shovel and matches
- Travel with a charged cell phone, but don’t rely on it to get you out of a bad situation
- Call 5-1-1 or visit safetravelusa.com for road conditions
- Change travel plans as weather conditions warrant

If you do get stranded:
- Run the engine and heater about 10 minutes an hour to stay warm
- Stay in your vehicle
- When the engine is running, open a window slightly to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning. Periodically clearing snow from the exhaust pipe will also help prevent carbon monoxide buildup
- When it’s dark outside, turn on the interior light so rescuers can see you
- Put up a distress flag, or spread a large colored cloth on the ground to attract attention from rescuers