South Dakota's weather was wild in 2022. These events made for the biggest headlines
Southeastern South Dakota saw temperatures swing by more than 125 degrees this year, as colder winters with blizzards were separated by a summer of intense heat and derechos.
SIOUX FALLS — From massive derechos and extreme heat to a December blizzard and an arctic freeze, South Dakotans experienced a lot of wild weather in 2022.
Temperatures across southeastern South Dakota in 2022 varied by as many as 126 degrees in some areas, with low temperatures of -18 in Sioux Falls and -19 in Mitchell on Dec. 22 contrasting the warmest day on Aug. 2 of 105 and 107 degrees, respectively.
From June through October, temperatures were 2.5 degrees higher than average in Sioux Falls and Mitchell. Rainfall, however, varied significantly, as Mitchell received 7.75 fewer inches of precipitation, while Sioux Falls only fell short of their historical norm by 2.5 inches.
Those above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation in the summer months led to drought across much of the state in 2022. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, more than 60% of land area in South Dakota was in some form of drought during the week of Sept. 27. Midsummer rain helped mitigate higher drought levels seen in April, but a lack of consistent precipitation caused drought levels to increase by fall.
And the year couldn’t end without Mother Nature subjecting South Dakotans to another mood swing. November was fairly typical, with temperatures falling slightly below-average in Sioux Falls and Mitchell. A significant polar air mass plunged temperatures to the coldest of the year, with temperatures averaging nearly 10 degrees below-average in both cities across the first 26 days of December.
South Dakota’s significant weather events for 2022
Each year, the National Weather Service keeps record of significant weather events that occurred across the country. This past year saw six such events affect southeastern South Dakota.
May 12 derecho sweeps Upper Midwest
Arguably the most significant weather events of the year came in the form of a derecho, when the hottest day of May fueled a particularly intense storm. With temperatures peaking in the low-90s in Mitchell and Sioux Falls, a storm system pushed up from central Nebraska that would devastate communities.
Spawning 13 tornadoes in South Dakota, the storm — which recorded straight-line wind speeds of up to 107 mph in Tripp — demolished a school in Castlewood, ripped the roof from a Salem nursing home and dented or downright destroyed grain bins.
According to the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls, heavy rainfalls brought three to four inches of precipitation to Sioux Falls while cities like Huron received up to 6 inches. Mitchell was spared from heavy rainfall, receiving roughly an inch. However, rain was the secondary concern of the storm, as the winds knocked power offline for roughly 70,000 people across eastern South Dakota.
The disaster caused $6.7M in damages to public property across 20 counties, which led Gov. Kristi Noem to ask President Joe Biden for a disaster declaration to access federal funds for repairs. That request — and requests from neighboring states — was later approved. The derecho was estimated to have caused more than one billion dollars of damage in the Dakotas, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Wisconsin.
‘The storm with the green sky’
A second, less-intense intense derecho would strike the state again on July 5, bringing wind gusts of nearly 100 mph — enough to flatten corn fields and uproot trees.
Depending on the location, rain either poured from the sky or hardly fell at all. Roughly 4.5 inches of rain fell to the northwest of Sioux Falls, while only six-tenths of an inch fell in Tea, just 20 miles to the south.
Though not unheard of in terms of wind and rain, what best characterized the derecho was the calm before the storm. The National Weather Service in Sioux Falls refers to the storm on their website as “the storm with the green sky,” an apt title, as the Sioux Falls sky lit up an eerie, spooky green as the system approached.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, water and ice particles in the sky tend to scatter blue light when sunlight passes through it. In storms that hit during sunset or sunrise, when the sky tends to be more red, the reddish light will combine with the blue light to emit a wide-spanning greenish hue.
Photos from “the storm with the green sky” drew global attention to Sioux Falls, as social media and international news outlets shared images and video of the rarely-seen green sky.
Christmas week bomb cyclone
In the days leading up to Christmas, a massive bomb cyclone invaded the United States, bringing blizzard conditions to the Upper Midwest and deadly cold air masses to much of the country.
Though less than 3 inches of snow fell in most of eastern South Dakota, high winds led to whiteout conditions, crippling travel capabilities for a period. Those mixed with dangerously cold temperatures in the negative teens and wind chills in the -30s in Sioux Falls and Mitchell led to widespread no travel advisories.
The worst travel conditions ahead of the holidays were seen to the west, where Interstate 90 was closed in various stretches between Chamberlain and Rapid City for days. In total, the storm system saw more than 11 million Americans under blizzard warnings and more than 80 million under wind chill warnings.
I-90 REOPENING UPDATE:— SDDOT (@SouthDakotaDOT) December 23, 2022
◼️ I-90 (westbound ONLY) from Wall to Rapid City has been reopened.
I-29 REOPENING UPDATES:
◼️ I-29 (northbound and southbound) from Sioux Falls to Watertown has been reopened
Full update: https://t.co/Zzh8vQdUwQ#SDDOT #SD511 #DontCrowdThePlow pic.twitter.com/S8wzzu7zob
Other significant events
In addition to two derechos and a massive bomb cyclone, the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls also produced event reports for an April hailstorm, severe thunderstorms that struck the area over Memorial Day and a strong-wind event that swept the region in mid-June. More details on those events and other past events can be found on the National Weather Service’s website.