Spring break starts early: Blizzard forces shutdown of classes

Jeremy Fugleberg

Jeremy Fugleberg

Spring Break arrived early for SDSU students, thanks to a blizzard a state official says could be the worst to hit the state in 10 years.

Effective 11 a.m. Thursday, all classes for Thursday and Friday were canceled, said SDSU officials in an email announcement. Dining services, residence halls and campus offices will remain open, according to the announcement. The basketball game at 7 p.m. tonight in Frost Arena is still on, as well.

Many businesses, most school districts and nearly all the public universities in Eastern South Dakota have already closed due to the weather.

The cancellation decision comes after the school was closed late Wednesday, but re-opened for classes again this morning, despite continued blizzard conditions.

On Wednesday, university officials closed the school at 5 p.m. Email and online announcements told students to find out after 5 a.m. Thursday morning if classes would be held. While online announcements listed the school as open, officials reversed that decision and canceled classes for the remainder of the week.

State Public Safety Director Tom Dravland said the blizzard could be the most significant winter storm to hit the state in 10 years. But he said the state’s schools can make their own decisions on how to handle the situation.

The National Weather Service posted a blizzard warning for the far eastern portion of South Dakota Thursday and over more of the east and especially the northeast for Thursday night and Friday.

The state’s Emergency Operations Center in Pierre opened Thursday morning to help direct state efforts. On Wednesday, Gov. Mike Rounds met with officials to plan the state’s response to the gathering snowstorm.

Dravland said he’s concerned about the number of people who could be on the highways for youth activities this weekend.

Already, the state high school debate tournament has been postponed from Friday and Saturday to Monday and Tuesday in Yankton.

Numerous schools in the eastern part of the state called off classes early Thursday before the storm hit.

Dravland said people trying to travel toward eastern South Dakota should reconsider their plans and those in the east should simply stay home.

Most of the storm should be gone by Saturday, he said.

Wire services contributed to this report.