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Biden declares June storms featuring grapefruit-sized hail in western SD a disaster

Hail as large as 4.5 inches, or grapefruit-sized, reportedly fell in Wall, closely rivaled by four-inch hail in Belle Fourche. Wind speeds reached as high as 91 mph near St. Onge, while roughly 2.5 inches of rain fell in Midland.

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This hailstone as large as a human hand fell roughly 23 miles north of Wall on Sunday, June 12, during one of multiple rounds of severe thunderstorms.
Photo courtesy of Chelsie Shearer via the National Weather Service
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden has approved a disaster declaration in connection with a mid-June storm system that swept South Dakota, leaving behind nearly $2 million in damage to public infrastructure across six counties.

Gov. Kristi Noem announced Tuesday that Biden approved her request for a presidential disaster declaration, opening the door for federal funds and assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

The declaration stems from multiple storm systems that swept South Dakota end-to-end June 11-14. Though most counties felt the impact, only six — Butte, Haakon, Jackson, Jones, McPherson and Spink — sustained enough damage to surpass the county's ability to fund repairs.

The storm system first impacted the area on the evening of Saturday, June 11, creeping into the northwestern corner of South Dakota at approximately 7 p.m. MDT. Though the storm swept east, it expanded to the south, dispatching large hail stones, periods of intense rain and high winds.

Storm reports compiled by the National Weather Service in Rapid City featured hailstones as large as two inches in diameter, commonly described as lime-size hail, in Belle Fourche, Nisland and Sturgis.

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A severe thunderstorm stretched through most of western South Dakota on Sunday, June 11, 2022.
Graphic courtesy of the National Weather Service

Winds as high as 92 mph were recorded a dozen miles outside of Castle Rock. While wind speeds are not available in Philip, the National Weather Service reported that high winds tore roofs off multiple buildings in the city.

The following day, on Sunday, June 12, a second round of thunderstorms brought very large hail and strong winds that damaged an area ranging from northeastern Wyoming to central South Dakota.

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Hail as large as four inches in diameter fell in Belle Fourche on Sunday, June 12, 2022, leaving behind significant damage on this building.
Photo courtesy of Cindy Woolston via the National Weather Service

Hail as large as 4.5 inches, or grapefruit-sized, reportedly fell in Wall, closely rivaled by four-inch hail in Belle Fourche. Wind speeds reached as high as 91 mph near St. Onge, while roughly 2.5 inches of rain fell in Midland. In Philip, a tornado spawned, though specific details weren't available.

As the storm system pressed east, a second tornado spawn northwest of Murdo, which Noem said was the first in Jones County since the 1990s. The funnel, categorized as an EF2, traveled roughly four miles in 10 minutes, featuring winds as high as 115 mph. It traveled through two shelterbelts and damaged two farms, according to the National Weather Service in Aberdeen.

A third, much shorter-lived tornado, spawned near Okaton, and traveled less than one-half-of-a-mile and only lasted on minute. Five grain bins were impacted, each of which were later discovered less than a mile away.

As if two rounds of storms wasn't enough, a third and final round of storms reached the area on Monday, June 13, featuring similar rains and wind speeds as well as hail as large as four inches in Buffalo Gap, dropping as much as another inch of rain in certain areas.

In total, preliminary damage assessments across six counties came in at a price tag of $1.6 million, which also exceeds the state's ability to fund repairs.

FEMA staff was already in the state working on a presidential disaster declaration that was approved for the May 12 derecho, and will begin work immediately to provide assistance efforts for this declaration. The Department of Public Safety’s Office of Emergency Management will be the state agency assigned to help coordinate the assistance.

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Monies disbursed by FEMA only applies to damage dealt to public institutions and infrastructure, such as highways, government buildings, schools, dams, public parks and other public facilities.

Noem's letter to Biden requesting the a disaster declaration can be found on the governor's website.

A South Dakota native, Hunter joined Forum Communications Company as a reporter for the Mitchell (S.D.) Republic in June 2021. After over a year in Mitchell, he moved to Milwaukee, where he now works as a digital reporter for Forum News Service, focusing on regional news that impacts the Dakotas, Minnesota and Wisconsin.
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