Fresh off her win, Kristi Noem made history in 2019. On January 5, Noem was sworn in as the first woman to be South Dakota’s governor.
The first year would prove challenging for Noem, in part thanks to mother nature. The state received five presidential disaster declarations, only the second highest in the state’s history, affecting all but three counties in South Dakota.
“Every aspect of our South Dakota way of life has been impacted by this year’s devastating storms. We have a long way to go, but this will be helpful as we rebuild and recover,” Noem said.
The biggest challenge to communities across the state was flooding. From rural flooding causing more challenges for farmers already in the middle of a trade war with China to neighborhoods requiring people to be rescued by boat.
Then disaster struck South Dakota’s largest city, when three EF-2 tornadoes hit Sioux Falls on the night of September 10. At least nine people were injured, dozens of buildings collapsed and trees were spread across the city.
For much of 2019, the Black Hills has been home to a search for 9-year-old Serenity Dennard. She disappeared from the Children’s Home Society on February 3.
“After a few days it turned from a rescue to a recovery because of weather so no question, that from a search perspective it is a recovery,” Pennington County Sheriff Kevin Thom said.
As of Dec. 31, she has not been found.
It was also the second deadliest year in the skies for South Dakota. 13 people died in four plane crashes throughout the year. Most died in a crash after Thanksgiving near Chamberlain.
An Idaho family was in town for an annual hunting trip. On their return flight home, the plane crashed near the Chamberlain airport. Nine were killed and three others were seriously injured.