Temperatures in Mitchell reached near-record highs Tuesday, a trend to be continued by forecasted above-average temperatures in the area through the beginning of December.

Tuesday’s temperature topped out in the upper-60s at the Mitchell Municipal Airport, falling just a few degrees short of a 72 degree record set in 1974.

As of 4 p.m. Tuesday, Winner sat just 2 degrees below its record high for Nov. 23 at 71 degrees, while White Lake tied their record at 66. Valentine, Nebraska, had broken their record high, reaching 77 degrees, while Sioux Falls smashed its 60-degree record, warming to 68.

Wednesday will see a drop in temperatures across the area, leading to Thursday’s highs between 26 and 38 degrees. Friday and Saturday return to a sense of warmth, as highs are forecasted to top out in the mid-50s.

Though Tuesday’s temperatures may be a welcome extension of warmer fall-like temperatures through Thanksgiving, data from the Climate Prediction Center indicates that all of South Dakota will likely experience above-average temperatures for at least the next 14 days.

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Areas in red are forecast to experience above-average temperatures from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6, 2021, while areas in blue are forecast to see below-average temperatures. Graphic courtesy of the Climate Prediction Center
Areas in red are forecast to experience above-average temperatures from Nov. 30 to Dec. 6, 2021, while areas in blue are forecast to see below-average temperatures. Graphic courtesy of the Climate Prediction Center

The high temperatures, in combination low humidity, stiff winds and moderate to severe drought in the Mitchell area also prompted the National Weather Service on Tuesday to issue a Red Flag Warning spanning from southeastern South Dakota to central Wyoming and even as far south as Texas.

“Critical fire danger conditions are expected for locations ... in the Red Flag Warning. Elevated fire danger is possible for all other areas,” the National Weather Service said in a tweet. “If you are out and about (Tuesday), please do not burn and properly dispose of cigarettes!”

After the Climate Prediction Center’s two-week model expires, likelihoods of above- or below-average temperatures are forecasted to balance out, with equal chances for both to occur over the state.

Despite warmer temperatures to start off December, South Dakotans can expect near normal precipitation across the winter months, indicating residents aren’t safe from dreaded winter snowstorms.

Experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration updated a La Niña advisory on Nov. 11, calling for a 90% chance of a La Niña winter in the United States.

La Niña is a phenomenon caused by lower water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean, which affects weather patterns across the United States.

A La Niña winter this year is likely to lead to below-average temperatures — especially in the full swing of the season — and near normal or slightly above-average snowfall amounts, but South Dakota State Climatologist Laura Edwards takes this with caution.

"There is a fair amount of uncertainty among climate model forecasts for the coming winter, which could mean periods of both cold and warm and also snowy and dry conditions fluctuating throughout the season,” Edwards said.

As with all weather patterns in South Dakota, forecasts may not always stick to historical trends.

In April of 2019, South Dakota was experiencing the close of an El Niño winter — which historically is warmer and drier than typical — when Winter Storm Wesley crippled the Midwest, dumping up to 17 inches of snow in Mount Vernon and over 30 inches in Wallace.

As the South Dakotans gear up for their annual Thanksgiving gatherings, the South Dakota Highway Patrol is urging caution not from slippery roads, but from increased traffic numbers across the state.

“Thanksgiving is a major travel holiday and that increases the chances of motor vehicle crashes,” said Col. Rick Miller, superintendent of the South Dakota Highway Patrol. “When driving, remember to stay focused — slow down, pay attention, drive sober and wear a seat belt.”

Over Thanksgiving weekend in 2020, South Dakota reported 198 crashes resulting in 27 injuries and no fatalities.

The National Weather Service in Sioux Falls hosts Winter Weather Awareness courses to prepare South Dakotans for what this winter may hold and share tips to prepare homes and vehicles. The next course will run Dec. 7.