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Despite Monday storm, SD could see drought-like conditions by May

A Schwan's truck lays on its side after sliding off Interstate 90 between Alexandria and Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)1 / 3
A tow truck works to pull out a semi-trailer that slid off Interstate 90 near the 335 exit on Monday in Hanson County. (Matt Gade / Republic)2 / 3
Brent O'Brien shovels his sidewalk on Monday morning following the storm that passed through Mitchell the night before. (Matt Gade / Republic)3 / 3

Despite a storm that left parts of southeastern South Dakota buried in more than a foot of snow on Monday, experts caution the state could dry out by May.

Caught on the edge of a winter weather system that closed many schools and businesses, Mitchell recorded approximately 1 inch of snow through Monday afternoon, bringing the year's total precipitation about equal to the same time last year.

Southeastern South Dakota took the brunt of the storm, with Yankton reporting 14.2 inches, and Tyndall checking in at about 4 inches, according to the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls. Strong wind gusts increased the severity of the storm in many places, with gusts recorded topping 40 mph in some areas. The wind caused visibility and road condition issues, NWS officials said.

The South Dakota Highway Patrol responded to five non-injury crashes in the Mitchell area Monday morning, as well as two reports of vehicles in the ditch and one motorist assist.

At 12:12 p.m., approximately 3 miles east of Mitchell in Hanson County, a strong gust of wind caused a semi traveling west on Interstate 90 to slide on ice and enter the ditch, according to the South Dakota Department of Public Safety. There were no injuries, but a section of the interstate was closed for 45 minutes.

But Climatologist Laura Edwards said the future of weather in the state is uncertain.

The outlook for February and March exhibits "a lot of variability," Edwards said, showing equal chances of above and below normal temperatures and precipitation.

"There's a lot of ups and downs, so it's really hard to say what to expect in that timeframe," Edwards said. "Hopefully we can catch the warmth when we need it and the precipitation when we need it."

But looking even further ahead has Edwards worried.

In the central plains area of Nebraska and Oklahoma, April and May are expected to be dry with little precipitation, which could push up into southern South Dakota.

"That's a really important time for moisture to get things off to a good start, and I know that's a few months off, but it seems to be a pretty consistent pattern," Edwards said. "Staying near normal isn't a bad thing in this situation."

The short-term forecast, however, is pretty clear, according to the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls.

Temperatures are expected to peak in the upper 30s to mid-40s through the end of the week, and precipitation is not expected, NWS officials said.

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