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Yes, this is a more active severe weather spring in South Dakota

A typical year sees 40 to 50 severe weather warnings through May. This year we've seen 187, second-most on record since 2000.

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Shown here is the James River flooding into field that rest next to it by South Dakota Highway 38 on Tuesday, May 31, 2022.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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MITCHELL — Does it seem like there has been more severe South Dakota weather lately?

There has.

The National Weather Service in Sioux Falls has issued 187 severe weather warnings this year. Only in 2004, when there were a whopping 299 severe weather warnings through May 31, were there been more through this point in the calendar. A typical year sees 40 to 50 severe weather warnings through May.

Get ready for June, said Phil Schumacher, meteorologist at the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls.

“I’ve had people ask if it’s going to keep going?” he said Tuesday afternoon. “You can’t predict it for sure, but I hate to tell you climatologically speaking the most active time during the year is from Memorial Day to July Fourth. So you can prepare for more warnings as we’ll probably have more severe weather as we head into June.”

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Widespread thunderstorms clobbered south-central and south-eastern South Dakota on Sunday and Monday with confirmed tornadoes, 70 mph winds, hail and significant rain. NWS classifies a severe thunderstorm as that produces a tornado, winds of at least 58 mph or hail at least 1 inch in diameter.

NWS officials were in Brandon on Tuesday reviewing damage to Beaver Lutheran Church and Huset’s Speedway. Schumacher said it had yet to be determined whether the damage, which occurred between 2 and 2:15 a.m. Monday, was due to a confirmed tornado or strong winds.

A tornado was confirmed Monday near Springfield, which is in southern South Dakota along the Missouri River.

“It was actually right over the river, and we call that an EF-U for ‘unknown,’ because we have no way to determine the wind speed since it was over the water,” Schumacher said.

Damage was also reported in Hanson County with an outbuilding destroyed and trees getting uprooted.

Despite the rain and weather over the weekend, the Mitchell region is still behind pace on average rainfall for the year. The weather station at the Mitchell airport is still 1.71 inches below average for the year and finished the spring season (March 1 to May 31) 1.23 inches below normal. Mitchell received 1.33 inches of rain over the weekend.

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Scenes from the Memorial Day Celebration at the Graceland Cemetery in Mitchell on Monday, May 30, 2022.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Those who have looked at the James River may not believe much of Davison County is still categorized as being in severe drought in the U.S. Drought Monitor. The James River, from Huron through Mitchell and into Hanson County is listed as flood stage.

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Shown here is the James River flooding into field that rest next to it by South Dakota Highway 38 on Tuesday, May 31, 2022.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

“It’s unusual in the sense that you don’t expect flooding a lot when you’ve been extremely dry,” Schumacher said, “but because of how river drainage works and the snow and rainfall in North Dakota and northern South Dakota, the river is up quite a bit.”

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Other notable weekend rainfall reports available Tuesday include Howard at 2.78 inches; Gayville with 2.47 inches; Gregory at 1.25 inches; and Forestburg at 1.61 inches.

NWS is seeking more information from the severe storms in Howard, Lake Andes, Burke and Plankinton. Officials are encouraging residents to reach out with reports.

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National Weather Service graphic

“The past couple years have been pretty quiet with only three severe weather warnings in 2020 through the end of May and 12 in 2021,” Schumacher said. “It’s a big contrast between very quiet springs to very active springs.”

Schumacher said as the timeline for even more active weather arrives in June, he is reminding everyone that severe thunderstorms can be just as impactful as tornadoes and that they should be taken very seriously.

“We’ve had injuries and fatalities both from severe weather this year,” he said.

Luke Hagen was promoted to editor of the Mitchell Republic in 2014. He has worked for the newspaper since 2008 and has covered sports, outdoors, education, features and breaking news. He can be reached at lhagen@mitchellrepublic.com.
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