Blizzard Weekend


Shortly before 9 pm, the TV stops working. I think it must be snow accumulation on the dish. When the last blog post went up at 5:30 precipitation had just turned to snow and it was pretty light, it got much heavier after sundown. The lights flicker for a third time as I sit at my computer, but the power loss is much briefer this time. There are blog posts to respond to and FB to stalk, so that’s what I do.

Darkness. The lights go out for the fourth and final time at 10:30 pm, my computer screen stays illuminated thanks to it’s battery and I use the light to get dressed in warm clothes. It’s over 70 in the motel room but I know that by morning it’ll be near freezing. The wind has shifted as expected, it’s now coming out of the NNW, about perfectly aligned to hit Cas from the back instead of the side. That also means it’s not howling through the cracks in my door and window which face more to the east. Instead is sounds like a low roar, intensity varying with the wind.

blizzard-weekend2I scoot to bed as there is nothing else to do, and worry a little about Cas. My heater is electric, and that means like in the motel room it’s no longer working. I dumped the tanks in preparation of the storm but I had no way to blow the lines out, I did run them out as best I could. The low temperature is only 31, so they’ll probably be okay. There’s no point worrying about it now when there is nothing I can do.


As it cools down over night I pull more and more of my blankets over me, when I wake up and notice it’s light outside I’m cozy and warm in my bed, but it’s definitely no longer warm in my room. My phone clock says it’s 7:22 am, and the power is still out. A quick peak outside shows the blizzard is still raging. I hope everyone else staying in the motel is doing alright. Back to my cozy bed.


Just after 10:00 I wake up again, this time I won’t be able to fall back asleep. Still no power, and still storming. A knock arrives at my door just as I’m finishing getting dressed. It’s a coworker, making sure I’m doing okay. The outside walkway that connects all of our rooms has becomes a slushy icy mess, it’s actually above freezing again like it has been for the majority of the storm, but the snow is coming down so fast it’s accumulating anyway.

blizzard-weekend4I take my phone out for some pictures, but the battery is low and I’m unable to charge it once it dies. Turns out a blizzard isn’t that interesting to photograph, it’s just all gray. Getting down the outside stairs so I can go check on Cas is a real challenge, it faces the North side where the wind is strong. I peer around the corner of the Inn and see that Cas is still upright, that’s really all I can do, and get a couple more pictures before going back to my cold, drafty room.

The rangers are coming to rescue us. The Visitor’s center has a backup generator, so they have power and thus heat (and a place to charge my phone). Sadly they’re just on snowmobiles and it’ll be a one at a time thing. The head of human resources at the Lodge has a trailer (the non-moving kind) right behind work and a large 4 wheel drive truck with a snow plow attachment on the front, and she actually makes it down first to help.

blizzard-weekend5She arrives just in time. My co-lead at the gift shop is very petite and her’s is one of the two rooms that faces the North, where the wind is coming from. She broke through the thigh high wall of snow blown up against her door in the morning to seek shelter in a warmer room, but it must have taken a lot out of her. She’s unresponsive now, and has to be carried out to the truck. It’s very scary, there’s no way an ambulance from Wall is going to be able to make it through the blizzard, I90 is shut down.

We’re all in luck though, two of the rangers are certified EMT’s and another one is dating a registered nurse who just happened to be visiting when the storm hit. Once we all get shuttled to the Visitor’s center we wait anxiously outside the door where they are working on warming her up. Fortunately, once out of the cold it’s not long before she starts blinking and responding to voices, but she’s still groggy for the rest of the day.


While we’re waiting the snow finally starts slowing and although the wind is still very strong I step outside and get a few more pictures. The storm has taken a devastating toll on the trees, due to the warmer temps the snow is very heavy and wet and limbs are down on many of them. I hear later that in the Black Hills that is what caused many of the power outages, the leaves had only started turning colors.

blizzard-weekend7The power comes back on in the park in the afternoon, but sadly is still out at the Inn. HR coworker opens up the guest cabins behind the Lodge for us to stay in that night, we hear it’ll be at least 24 hours before the Inn gets power back, so we can’t stay there. While WiFi is still down I manage to get a call to go through the bad reception my phone gets down here at the bottom of the badlands wall to my parents. I have them check the forecast. It warmed up considerably once the sky cleared today, but that clear sky makes for a colder night temperature: 25. Not good news for Cas.

The guest cabins are beautiful. Well, I guess they should be considering they’re brand new and rent out for $137 a night before taxes. Once again I have TV, and the cable is working despite the snow, it feels very surreal to be able to watch it after what happened the past 24 hours.


blizzard-weekend10The Badlands look gorgeous this morning, and it’s warming up rapidly. I go on a walk with a coworker to take pictures. Lots of pictures. White snow, golden grass, the red badlands, blue skies, and green leaves still on the trees, it’s amazing. And because of the shutdown, no one else is around. We spot two different herds of mule deer, the animals have really started coming out now that the crowds are gone.

I feel bad for all of the people who are still without power. People who’s homes have been damaged from the wind and trees, and heck, for all I know my RV might be among them, I have no way to test the plumbing until the power at the Inn comes back, but I do not feel guilty for enjoying the natural splendor left behind. Happiness can be found in the conscious decision to set aside worry, doubt, and fear, at least for a time, and enjoy the beauty that’s before you. It’s going to be alright.

blizzard-weekend8The nurse comes by to check on my co-lead, she’s given the thumbs up. I work on writing for the eguide a little and putter around the cabin. A group of us go up to the Lodge in the afternoon and without the help of any of the cooks manage to cobble together a dinner of chicken and wild rice, we didn’t get to bring much with us from the Inn when we evacuated yesterday. It’s tasty, partly because of the satisfaction of having a hand in making it.

By early evening, the roads have melted so much that I can get my truck out of the parking lot at the Inn and bring another load of stuff down to the cabin, no one knows how long the power will be out at this point. I even drive up to Circle 10 in the evening to get WiFi, there’s a still a waist high drift in front of the registration and lobby building making it impossible to pull too far into the campground, but I get far enough to get online and check in with everyone.

Tomorrow we all go back to work. It’s the end of what turned out to be a pretty wild weekend.

* * *

For more information on this woefully under-reported blizzard that broke snowfall records and killed an estimated 75,000 cattle in western South Dakota, please see


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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Dorothy on October 15, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    Hi Becky –

    My husband and I (and our two canine children) were in the Badlands middle of September. It is fun to see your pictures – sights that we enjoyed looking at before snow – covered in snow. Love the first picture on this post!

    ~ Dorothy
    Dorothy recently posted..An Attitude AdjustmentMy Profile

    • Becky on October 16, 2013 at 9:04 pm

      Hehe, thanks Dorothy. Snow definitely changes the feel of the Badlands, it makes it very treacherous and difficult to go hiking though because it turns everything to mud and hides all the little holes and crevices. You have some pretty good pictures on your blog too. 🙂

  2. ROSEMARY R. on October 9, 2013 at 7:31 pm

    Dear Becky,

    So glad to read that you are weathering out the storm. Very scary conditions. Cant imagine how the farmers and ranchers did through this.
    Your strength continues to amaze me. Stay well and warm when you can.
    Take care.

    • Becky on October 9, 2013 at 8:40 pm

      Luckily the heater in this brand new cabin works very well.

      I posted a link in a previous comment that talks more about the rancher’s predicament. While exact numbers aren’t available yet, the number of cattle that died in the blizzard is somewhere in the tens of thousands. Ranchers are having a hard time getting assistance right now, there are government programs in place to give aid to farms in natural disasters like this but guess what? It’s a federal government thing and thus shut down.

  3. Kathi & Michael Williams on October 9, 2013 at 3:53 pm

    Whoa– sounds awful. Must share, though, that indeed CA has blizzards way up north. Deep blizzards and 8 months of truly crappy weather. That’s why we are elated we now have a tiny trailer and a Ford 150 to get us and the cats far south and away from Mt. Shasta’s storms. I was up in Portland, OR for a huge rain storm last week–maybe it headed on to the heartland & got you.

    We’re headed to a huge fiddle camp in Death Valley in Nov–if the dang park is open!! Good luck to all of us on weather and rotten politics!

    • Becky on October 9, 2013 at 8:35 pm

      I truly feel for RVers trying to get out and see the national parks right now, really puts a damper on things. I can say I learned something new today, because I never equated CA with crappy weather…now I know.

      I follow another blogger who has been RVing up in OR, she’s been talking about a lot of rain too, I guess it’s possible.

  4. cozygirl on October 9, 2013 at 10:05 am

    So scarey for your co-lead and all for that matter. Great you had the rescue team. Crossing fingers Cas survived…they are pretty mighty! Post was intense and your sure grabbed the beauty of the storms vengeance!
    cozygirl recently posted..Not traveling…but caregiving!My Profile

    • Becky on October 9, 2013 at 8:33 pm

      I really hope I never have to write another post about a blizzard while RVing ever again. Power is still out at the Inn today, but it’s been warm enough where it hasn’t been an issue. Gives me a good chance to defrost the freezer actually. But Monday it might snow again and that night is predicted to get down near freezing. I’m trying to find some place I can plug it in around here between now and then but having trouble so far.

  5. John of Sinbad and I on the Loose on October 8, 2013 at 10:09 pm

    Another wonderful post. Beautiful pictures. I feel for your co-worker for I know I’d be right alongside of her probably. Glad she pulled through. Bad about the poor cows. Whew! Here’s to sunny skies for you.
    John of Sinbad and I on the Loose recently posted..Flea Market – WeirdMy Profile

  6. RonS on October 8, 2013 at 6:18 pm

    Glad you are strong and young enough to tough this unseasonal storm out. Your over all attitude about “stuff” is your greatest asset. Now, we hope and pray the roads clear up to allow your safe travel out of there when it’s time for you to move on.

    • Becky on October 8, 2013 at 9:35 pm

      High was 70 today Ron, the roads are clear! Quite an amazing turn around. Now if only the electric company would get our power turned on, hehe. A week from today is my last day here in South Dakota… at least for this visit. 🙂

  7. Kim on October 8, 2013 at 4:23 pm

    Holy Moly!!! What an adventure. Glad your co-worker is OK. And Cas too apparently.
    Kim recently posted..Shut Down. Bummed Out.My Profile

    • Becky on October 8, 2013 at 9:33 pm

      Not quite the adventure I was hoping to have when I started RVing, that’s for sure. In the future, I’ll try harder to avoid blizzards. 😛

  8. PamelaP on October 8, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    SO glad to hear that you & your co-workers are OK and glad that Cas made it through the storm upright! I loved your statement:

    Happiness can be found in the conscious decision to set aside worry, doubt, and fear, at least for a time, and enjoy the beauty that’s before you. It’s going to be alright.

    Too many people worry over situations and I’ve never known a single case where worry solved anything! You are wise beyond your years.

    I hope you find you didn’t have any significant damage to Cas and that you are able to finish your job there without any more excitement!

    Keep safe!

    • Becky on October 8, 2013 at 9:32 pm

      Thanks Pamela for the well wishes. Worry can be a handy tool sometimes, it can spurn us into the action necessary to prevent the thing we’re worrying about. But in some cases there is nothing that can be done, and that’s when worry becomes unproductive. Like in this case, with the blizzard there was no way I was going to be able to run out to buy something to drain the lines with, or buy a propane heater to keep it all warm. Whatever happened was going to happen, so there was no point in worrying about it.

  9. Ruth on October 8, 2013 at 11:31 am

    Love your opening picture, too funny.

    I am glad you made it through the storm and that your co-lead’s health is doing better. I hope your trailer’s lines are okay.
    Ruth recently posted..Slow progress is still progressMy Profile

    • Becky on October 8, 2013 at 9:29 pm

      Haha, I was wondering how people were going to react to that picture. I had to spruce it up a little, wasn’t much to see otherwise.

      Thanks for the well wishes.

  10. Richard Myers on October 8, 2013 at 11:26 am

    Hi Becky,

    Glad you are safe.

    As for Cas, I am going to attempt to blow out my lines this winter using this:

    along with a bicycle pump. Most use a compressor, but a bicycle pump should work fine. Just close the fawcets, etc, pump to 40 psi and open a fawcet. Repeat until finished. It will take longer with a bike pump than with a compressor, but will work even without power.


    • Becky on October 8, 2013 at 9:28 pm

      Being able to blow out your lines without power would be nice Rick. I’m going to try to make it through CamperForce without winterizing this year, that might be an adventure of it’s own. I’m heading south right afterward and would have to undo it right away.

      • Teri Lee on October 8, 2013 at 11:41 pm

        I interviewed for a job at Amazon, but I did not want to deal with cold weather, so I did not take the job. I may work in Cody, WY next summer, wonder what kind of weather there will be, but I think the job ends on Sept 15th.
        Teri Lee recently posted..Goodbye South Padre, Hello San AntonioMy Profile

        • Becky on October 9, 2013 at 8:19 pm

          Well, the average high for Cody, WY on Sept 15th is 57, average low 33. For this year in the first half of September there were 7 of 15 days where it got below freezing at night, the lowest temp was 15. I love 😛

  11. Arlon on October 8, 2013 at 10:48 am

    I’m toasty warm in West Texas but these pics have me thinking it has to be colder outside today than it is. It’s enough to give me a chill just looking at your pics and reading your accounting of the storm. Glad your coworker seems to be OK, get her a real quilt, they hold a lot of heat. Hope your Casita is unscathed. I don’t think mine has ever even seen snow… (-:}
    Arlon recently posted..Doodlebug Golf Tournament to raise money for earth science scholorshipsMy Profile

    • Becky on October 8, 2013 at 9:10 pm

      Hee, yeah Texas looks pretty good right about now. Actually the high here today was 70, whaaaat. Such a contrast. Least the next few nights wont’ get below freezing so I don’t need to worry about further damage, although I’d like power so I can move back sooner rather than later, no place down here by the cabins to plug in a RV.

  12. karla on October 8, 2013 at 9:16 am

    Glad to hear you are OK and fellow coworkers.
    Hope you don’t have any damage to Cas.

    • Becky on October 8, 2013 at 9:08 pm

      Thanks for the well wishes Karla. 🙂

  13. David on October 8, 2013 at 8:53 am

    It is very good to hear you made it through and see that at least Cas is standing. Now hopefully the temperatures did no damage.

    Reading about the storm on the internet I was really concerned for you. Our mail service in Box Elder (Rapid City) was shut down for several days.

    Isn’t life interesting.
    David recently posted..2013-10-07 Post 2 – PicturesMy Profile

    • Becky on October 8, 2013 at 9:08 pm

      Crossing my fingers David.

      Yeeah, Rapid City got it worse than here. Good thing my mail forwarding is out of Madison, on the other side of the state.

  14. Anj on October 8, 2013 at 8:48 am

    You are one brave lady! I’m glad you are ok and I look forward to reading your next post!

    • Becky on October 8, 2013 at 9:05 pm

      Not quite an adventure I was planning on when I started RVing, heh. Glad you enjoyed it.

  15. Mike LeBlanc on October 8, 2013 at 8:42 am

    Becky…one of your absolute best writings! As I read through, I thought of the mission of Life Magazine when it began in 1936, “To Marry Words and Pictures”. You did that! Stay safe.

    • Becky on October 8, 2013 at 8:57 pm

      Glad you liked it Mike.

  16. David Michael on October 8, 2013 at 8:12 am

    Bravo! Another great adventure you will treasure as you tell stories to your grandkids many years from now. This is my second week at Amazon Fernley in ICQA. Still great weather in this part of Nevada with cold nights and warm, sunny days. Thanks for sharing!
    David Michael recently posted..Eastern Sierra NevadaMy Profile

    • Becky on October 8, 2013 at 8:57 pm

      ICQA, I spent a day or two working in that department when they got real busy. Hope you’re enjoying the Nevada site. That one will be getting a little colder on average than Coffeyville or Campbellsville which have very similar average temps.

      And yeah, it will make for a good story, but it has a very sad aspect to it too. I’m adding farmers to the list of people I’m feeling sorry for, on the short trip from Cactus Flat to Wall along I90 for a grocery run I saw no less than 30 dead cattle, laying in their fields. Some were huddled up next to each other for warmth, others died next to signs, trying to get out of the wind. I think the storm was so early in the season that a lot of them didn’t have their winter coats yet to protect them, poor things.

      And those farmers, there is such a slim profit margin in raising livestock that losing even 1 or 2 animals can have a devastating affect on their bottom line.

  17. MarciaGB on October 8, 2013 at 8:08 am

    Wow! That was quite a storm you had. Lucky for your coworker that there were some medical people around to help her. Glad you came through OK and hope Cas did too!

    • Becky on October 8, 2013 at 8:50 pm

      Yeah, it was miraculous that that nurse happened to be visiting. Least I can say for sure that there weren’t any leaks from the over 1.5″ of rain before it switched to snow and later from snow melt.

  18. Kai on October 8, 2013 at 2:02 am

    Glad to hear you are fine and went through it with a good perspective. Hope your coworker recovers ok. I’m a good bit south and west from you but still got a good dose of all that crazy wind. I ended up taking option 1 and getting as far away as possible, but it was a huge front!

    • Becky on October 8, 2013 at 8:49 pm

      It was really large Kai! it almost had an eye too, with rotation and bands of precipitation. We got snow on this side of it, but that same day the SE corner of the state got tornadoes from the same system pulling air form the south instead of north. Crazy. My coworker is back to normal. I’m glad you found somewhere safer to ride it out.

  19. Tina on October 8, 2013 at 1:51 am

    Hi Becky,

    Glad to hear you are okay. What a crazy experience to go through. That was a really bad snow storm. Coming from CA I just can not image it.

    Hoping that Cas will be okay and will not have too much damage if any.


    • Becky on October 8, 2013 at 8:47 pm

      Yeah, can’t imagine CA sees that many blizzards, haha. Maybe next winter I’ll come camp out with you. 😉

      The weather the next few nights is going to be above freezing luckily, power at the Inn is still out.

      • Yorgus on October 29, 2013 at 12:28 am

        “Yeah, can’t imagine CA sees that many blizzards . . .”

        Two words: Sierra Nevada.

        Two more: Donner Party.

        California is a big state. It is not all the same.

        • Becky on October 29, 2013 at 1:54 pm

          Yorgus, I meant no offense. Of course there are exceptions and that’s why I worded it as ‘many blizzards.’ I’m sorry if you took it the wrong way, I was commenting in a joking manner about staying with Tina, not trying to downplay the effect blizzards might have in California. Take care and have a good day.

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