Record-setting October blizzard

SDSU Extension

BROOKINGS, S.D. – The weekend’s blizzard in South Dakota brought heavy snow and rain across much of the western part of the state, causing catastrophic livestock losses, property damage, and shutting down travel for a several day period.  Statewide, total precipitation ranged from over 8 inches in northern Black Hills to as little as .10 inches of rain in the southeast. Snowfall amounts were as high as 55 inches in the northern Black Hills..

“Preliminary precipitation totals have been difficult to come by,” said Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension Climate Field Specialist. “A lot of our weather observers in rural areas of northwestern counties are still without power and phone, or have larger issues to deal with.”  

Edwards explained that some observers with internet connectivity were able to send in storm reports to the National Weather Service, and to the Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network (CoCoRaHS,  In addition, many observer locations are at federal facilities such as National Forest and Parks.  With these employees are furloughed leaving many locations with no measured data available for this storm event. 

She said the snowfall amounts were challenging to measure, given 60 mph winds in blizzard conditions.  The top snowfall amounts were in the northern Black Hills area, with reports of 40 to 60 inches over the three-day period.  Widespread 20-plus inch amounts reached into the plains north and east of the Black Hills. 

At Rapid City, 23.1 inches were measured, which sets a new record for total October snowfall.  The one-day total of 19.0 inches on Oct. 4 is the highest one-day total for the month of October, and ranks third highest ever in the city’s record.  This recent blizzard also adds to an already snowy year for Rapid City with 85.7 inches since January, ranking 2013 as the second snowiest calendar year.  The current record 94 inches from 2009. 

In the eastern part of the state, nearly all of the precipitation fell as rain, which soaked cropland and slowed harvesting activities.  Rainfall totals were as high as 4 inches in the central and north central counties, soaking the soils and grain out in the fields.  Areas of the southeast received much less rainfall causing fewer harvest issues. 

The additional precipitation in central and western locations along with the warmer temperatures this week will help with winter wheat emergence and establishment in these areas.   

The forecast for the weekend calls for some more rain in western South Dakota with 1 inch or more amounts possible.  Fortunately, flooding risk is minimal despite the rain and snow that has fallen recently.  Perkins County has been very wet over the last several weeks seeing a record wet September. Some rivers and streams there may approach minor flood lev