New rain record blows the old out of the water

Anne Virgina Koepp

Anne Virgina KoeppReporter

Brookings made history in 2010 with the wettest year on record.

“Total [rainfall] for the year is 36.80 inches,” said Dennis Todey, assistant professor at SDSU and state climatologist for South Dakota. “That is the highest annual total for Brookings ever recorded. The previous total was 33.12 inches in 2005.”

Todey said Brookings is in a trend of wetter conditions that have been building since the 1930s.

Climatologists use different equipment to measure rainfall that varies between downfalls.

“The official measurement (of rain) uses a large metal canister about eight inches in diameter and several feet tall,” said Todey. “This captures the rain inside a smaller inner tube and larger outer tube. The different size increases the depth of the water to make measuring hundredths of inches easier.”

While this type of measurement requires human involvement, Todey said it is still quite accurate.

It can be difficult to understand what exactly caused this heavy influx of rain the past year, he said.

“This season it has to do somewhat with a large area of high pressure over the southeastern U.S.,” said Todey. “The clockwise circulation around the edge of the high brought ample moisture from the Gulf of Mexico into the Midwest this summer.”

This means the warm air current brought the rain north towards South Dakota.

To help determine when the weather will strike, Todey uses models from a computer that are continually being refined to help make forecasts more precise.

“Radar is used to indicate where rainfall is and when and if it will reach certain areas,” said Todey.

The rainfall during the summer and continuing into the fall season was heavy enough at times to cause flooding.

“We had four substantial events of rainfall; one in June, two in July and one in October,” said Jeff Weldon, city manager of Brookings.

“The more water during a shorter period of time presents a higher probability of flooding. Two inches of rainfall during one half hour is much worse than four inches of rainfall over 12 hours,” Weldon said.

Majority of the flooding in Brookings was in low areas and previous wetlands. Some traffic intersections flooded and created problems for students.

“One of my routes to campus was flooded,” said Jeremy Klinger, a psychology major from Sioux Falls. “I had to take a much longer route to campus and I was very late for a class since a lot of other people were being directed around the flooding too.”

The city’s drainage is designed to handle a five-year storm, which is expected to occur once every five years. The storm’s severity causes it to typically occur less frequently.

“Our problem is that this year’s storms have exceeded those five-year events,” said Weldon. “The City of Brookings has started this year on the first two of eight projects we are constructing to improve storm water management and reduce flooding. The total cost of these projects is about $12 million.”

The plan’s time span for completion is expected to be between seven to 10 years, Weldon said.

However, with the last downpour in early October, the community quickly came together to help with sandbagging as some residents in low lying areas needed to be evacuated from their homes.

“Sandbagging for this last storm was organized by the County Emergency Management department,” said Weldon.

Concern now arises regarding if the coming winter will be as snowy as the summer was rainy.

#1.1669073:375242514.jpg:Wettest-1-Color-Mackenzie-Clayton.jpg:The majority of the flooding in Brookings took place in low areas and previous wet lands. Due to the high summer rain totals, this is the wettest year in history that Brookings has ever seen. Concern now arises for the coming winter.:Collegian Photo by Mackenzie Clayton