Summer Rain Totals Make History

Hannah Baker

Hannah Baker

Summer felt like spring in Brookings the past few months when heavy rains and flooding broke records that have been in place for over 100 years.

“This has been the wettest summer Brookings has seen in the last 118 years,” said Dennis Todey, Extension State Climatologist. “The summer rain total as of August 20 is at 19.03 inches. That’s 1.31 inches above the previous record and summer isn’t over yet.”

Todey said the frequent rainstorms are a result of high-pressure systems that mix with southwesterly winds. This process brings warmth and moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, mixing to form heavy and frequent rainstorms.

SDSU students living in Brookings faced many challenges resulting from the flooding conditions this summer.

“During June the basement of my house flooded constantly,” said Drew Rulhman, junior pharmacy major from Brookings, S.D. “I even ended up having to tear up the carpet and throw it away because it was completely destroyed by all the rain.”

While driving with his roommate to get dinner one evening, Kyle Hanson, senior communications major from Elk Point, S.D., had a run-in with the rushing waters as well.

“We were heading down Sixth Street from the west side and the roads were so flooded that the water went up over the bottom of the car doors,” Hanson said. “We had to pull up into the movie theater parking lot just to get out of the water.”

The flooding problems that Ruhlman, Hanson and other students experienced were partly due to the community drainage systems’ inability to drain water efficiently.

Jeff Weldon, Brookings city manager, said because of all the unexpected storms and heavy rains, the drainage system was unable to keep up.

“Our drainage system is designed to only handle so much,” said Weldon. “Last fall was wet and then the unabsorbed water froze during the winter months so there was a lot of excess water backed-up already. Then when summer came and brought a lot of rain along with it, the ground was unable to absorb it all and it was just too much.”

Weldon said the drainage system in Brookings is similar to many other community drainage systems in that it is compiled of a series of storm sewer pipes in the streets that allow water to run into sewer drains and off into the ground, rivers and ponds. However, since the community is expanding, there are more flat, pervious areas where excess water can sit, such as parking lots.

In order to fix this problem, Weldon said there is a plan in effect to build 12 more water-accommodating projects at various locations around Brookings to aid in water control and future storms, totaling $8 million.

“We want to add more drainage pipes, digging channels and ponds to help accommodate for future rain,” Weldon said. “It’s my hope that these new projects will aid in future problems for Brookings residents.”