South Dakota's wild spring weather continues with hail, tornado, high winds, blizzard

Alexandra Hardle
Aberdeen News
The Hamlin County Sheriff’s Office was called to a trailer rollover crash on Interstate 29 on Saturday afternoon. It was one of five similar accidents caused by the wind on Saturday that the office dealt with.

A strange spring is dragging on with South Dakota seeing hail, a tornado, blustery winds, heavy rain and, in the western part of the state, heaps of snow during recent days.

Across eastern and central South Dakota, thunderstorms, some severe, have been fairly common the past 10 days or so. One person reported broken windows from hail Saturday night southwest of Ridgeview in Dewey County, said Travis Tarver with the National Weather Service in Aberdeen. It was the result hail that was about 2 inches in diameter, or roughly the size of a hen egg or lime, he said.

Aside from that, the agency hasn't heard of much damage.

There was also hail in the Roscoe and Hosmer area Saturday and, according to a video posted on social media, at least one farm building was damaged by Saturday's storm in the Hoven area.

Despite several tornado warnings being issued across the region during the weekend, only one tornado briefly touched down. That was in a field about 7 miles east of Hosmer at 2:35 p.m. Saturday, Tarver said. No injuries were reported.

Many places have had considerable rainfall in recent days.

Near Ellendale, N.D., 1.91 inches of rain were reported in the 48 hours that ended Sunday morning, according information from the NWS. During that same period, there were also reports of 1.89 inches of rain 7 miles northwest of Aberdeen and 1.84 inches of rain 8 miles north of Columbia.

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Much of the moisture skirted the Watertown area. In the 48 hours ending Sunday morning, Watertown had only 0.15 inch, according to the weather service.

Pollock in Campbell County saw 2.7 inches of rain in the 24 hours ending at 7 p.m. Saturday. And the NWS had a report of 2.17 inches during that stretch in Hand County,

A farmer and agribusiness owner tweeted Saturday that about 4 inches of rain had fallen near Zeeland, N.D., with images of water across a road as evidence. That was, he noted, after getting only 5 inches of rain from April through Aug. 20 last year.

Since Friday, the following weather advisories have been issued by the National Weather Service in South Dakota:

  • Tornado warnings
  • Blizzard warnings
  • Severe thunderstorm warnings
  • Flood warnings
  • High wind warnings
  • Red flag warnings
  • Wind advisories
  • Flood advisories
  • Winter weather advisories
  • Tornado watches
  • Severe thunderstorm watches
  • Fire weather watches

Welcome to spring in South Dakota.

And don't forget the unceasing wind.

Strong gusts were also reported during the weekend, with Hayes west of Pierre seeing a gust of about 65 mph early Sunday morning. One 70 mph wind gust about 5 miles northeast of Cresbard caused a grain cart to move about 15 feet, Tarver said.

High gusts in the 24 hours that ended at 11 p.m. Sunday, included:

  • Mobridge: 59 mph
  • Summit: 56 mph
  • Brandt: 53 mph
  • Frederick: 53 mph
  • Bowdle: 53 mph
  • Eureka: 50 mph
  • Watertown: 48 mph
  • Aberdeen: 48 mph
  • Webster 47 mph
  • Clark: 47 mph
  • Wallace: 47 mph
  • Sisseton: 47 mph
  • Waubay: 47 mph
  • Mellette: 47 mph
  • East of Milbank: 46 mph

Those numbers are somewhat modest in comparison to the gusts recorded across much of the region in the 48 hours that ended at 11 p.m. Saturday:

  • Herreid: 70 mph
  • Webster: 69 mph
  • Summit: 67 mph
  • Mellette: 66 mph
  • Watertown: 64 mph
  • Brandt: 64 mph
  • Aberdeen: 63 mph
  • Northeast of Milbank: 63 mph
  • Andover: 62 mph
  • Clark: 60 mph
  • Eureka: 58 mph
  • Peever: 58 mph

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As much as 22 inches of snow in Black Hills

Mother Nature didn't stop with wind and hail. Lemmon in the northwestern corner of the state had 5.5 inches of snow during the weekend, and a few inches fell in Corson County, Tarver said.

And that was nothing compared to the Rapid City and Black Hills area. Much of the region got at least 8 inches of snow, and Lead had 22 inches as of Sunday morning, said Scott Rudge with the NWS office in Rapid City. 

West River also saw high winds, with the Rapid City airport reporting a 76 mph gust on Saturday morning. Rudge said the storm started off with severe weather and thunderstorm warnings that eventually turned into a blizzard. He said the only damage reported to the office was to vehicles caused by wind and hail.

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March and April typically being the snowiest months for the western part of the state, Rudge said.

Philip Schumacher with the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls said such early spring weather is neither unusual nor common. The southeastern part of the state saw a combination of thunderstorm, tornado, high wind and red flag warnings throughout the weekend.

About 10 miles north of Kimball, 2.5-inch hail was reported over the weekend, Schumacher said. That's about the size of a tennis ball. Parts of Beadle County also saw hail that was about 2-inches in diameter. 

A tornado was reported west of Wolsey in Beadle County on Friday evening, he said. No damage was reported, but that's not to say there wasn't any, Schumacher said.

Although April is typically the windiest month in the Sioux Falls region, this year has been windier than normal. A gust of 63 mph was recorded Sunday afternoon at the Sioux Falls airport, according to the NWS.

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Low-pressure system caused the crazy weather

The varying weather across the state was caused by a tightly wound low-pressure system that was rotating counterclockwise, almost resembling a hurricane on land, Tarver said.

The stronger a low-pressure system is, the more of contrast the weather is going to see. Typically, the eastern part of a low-pressure system will see warmer temperatures, while the western side will see cooler temperatures. Over the weekend, the low-pressure system moved right through central South Dakota, he said.

As so there was snow to the west and rain to the east.

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Wild weather makes calving, planting difficult 

The weather is a stark contrast from last spring, said Mark Lapka, who is a farmer and rancher north of Leola in McPherson County. A year ago, conditions were dry, allowing farmers good conditions for calving and to plant whenever they wanted.

But this year, there is still frost in the ground, making spring planting and calving more difficult. The cattle are tired, said Lapka, and calves born in wind and cold temperatures are less apt to  survive. Young calves that are born before storms are usually not affected by the weather, he said.

Although Lapka said he didn't lose any calves in the most recent storm, some died in earlier spring storms. Cold temperatures cause calves to get hypothermia, and while some can be saved, others cannot, he said.

Lapka also said planting has been delayed this year due to the cold. Although the moisture is beneficial to farming, the cold ground isn't ready for seeds. But it's nothing he hasn't dealt with before. Farmers have to delay planting when cool weather lasts as long as it has this sprig, he said.

While the storms made for a wet, windy weekend for some folks, the rain was beneficial to many areas in the Missouri River Valley that have been suffering from drought, said Michael Connelly, a meteorologist with the NWS in Aberdeen.

Severe Weather Preparedness Week

Temperatures are expected to warm as the week progresses with highs in the 50s and into the 60s in the Watertown to Aberdeen area. Odds are good for more moisture when the weekend sets in, if the forecast holds.

Perhaps the past week was good practice for this week as it's Severe Weather Preparedness Week.

"The Federal Emergency Management Agency estimates that 62% of businesses do not have an emergency plan in place," according to information from the NWS about the week. "Now is the time to develop and practice plans."

Weather radios are helpful, and it's wise to know where local emergency shelters are.

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