As hurricane-force gusts toppled trees, whipped the air into whiteout conditions, and brought temperatures down to 15 degrees, most businesses across Rapid City took drastic action on Oct. 4.
The Target store closed early and allowed 20 employees to stay the night in the building. Triple Crown Hospitality, which owns three hotels, not only let its employees sleep over, it extended the offer to their family members.
But nine employees at Sam's Club on Eglin Street, including a pregnant 19-year-old, were not so lucky.
This week, the Journal spoke with two Sam's Club employees who said workers were forced outside into the recording-breaking blizzard.
Unable to drive through snow-choked streets, and dressed only in fall clothing, the employees say they spent an hour trudging to a nearby hotel.
When called for comment, the Eglin Street Sam's Club referred the Journal to the store's corporate office in Arkansas; the chain is owned by Wal-Mart Stores Inc.
Carrie Moore, a spokeswoman for the company, said in a statement on Friday that Sam's Club guides its managers to take every precaution to ensure the safety of its employees.
She said that the manager on duty had elected to send workers to a nearby hotel during the blizzard because he was concerned that the store would lose power.
"In hindsight, we recognize that different decisions could have been made to maximize associate safety," she wrote. "We have carefully reviewed our Disaster Response procedures with our Rapid City team to ensure incidents like these do not occur in the future.”
Ronny Miller, 19, who has worked at Sam's Club since May and is eight months pregnant, hopes that no employee has to experience what she did on Oct. 4.
That Friday, Miller arrived at 1 p.m. for her shift. As the winds howled outside and snow began to fall, the store stood empty of customers.
"We were all standing around doing nothing," Miller said.
She said the manager on duty told the employees that he had called the company's corporate office repeatedly to see if the store could close early.
At about 6:30 p.m., the manager told the workers that corporate officials had finally given permission to close.
But by that point, driving home had become a near impossibility for the employees. A 'no travel' advisory was in effect.
Miller said her car was buried in three feet of drifting snow.
Miller said the manager responded that corporate had told him that the employees had to vacate the building.
"We were like, 'why can't we just stay in the store?'" Miller said. "'We have all the food we need. We have TVs. We have pull-out beds on the walls that we could just lay on for the night. I mean, c'mon?'"
Miller said the manager told them that he was sorry, but there was nothing he could do.
The Journal is not naming the Friday on-duty manager because he could not be reached. The newspaper asked Sam's Club if it would allow a reporter to speak with the manager, but an official said the Friday manager was no longer with the company.
Asked whether he had been fired, the company's corporate office said that its policy is not to discuss the employment history of individuals.