SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — A storm warning from the National Weather Service heightens awareness, said KELOLAND Meteorologist Scot Mundt said.
But this summer, there hasn’t been many storms to warn the public about.
Mundt tracked 304 severe weather reports in South Dakota from June through Aug. 19. The average total since 2015 for the same time period is 629.
The National Weather Service issues severe storm warnings and tornado warnings. The warnings issued through the morning of Aug. 24 are down across the state.
Mike Gillispie of the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls said the Sioux Falls site has issued 101 severe thunderstorm warnings and five tornado warnings through 9:45 a.m. Aug. 24.
That’s the fewest number of warnings since 2009, Gillispie said. The Sioux Falls NWS issued 123 severe thunderstorm warnings in 2013.
The Rapid City NWS site has issued 177 including several on the night of Aug. 23, said Susan Sanders of the NWS.
“That’s the lowest number since 183 in 2017,” Sanders said. Sanders is using data tracked by the NWS site since 1996.
So far, 124 warnings have been issued at the Aberdeen NWS site, said Ryan Lueck.
“That ranks as the fourth-fewest to this point since we’ve been recording the number when we began in 1986,” Lueck said.
During an average year, the Aberdeen NWS would have issued 194 severe storm warnings by Aug. 24, Lueck said.
The Rapid City NWS issues 315 severe storm warnings in a typical year, Sanders said.
Mundt broke down the average number of statewide severe storm reports by month.
The average number since 2015 for June is 218, 262 for July and 149 for August. Through Aug. 19, there were 132 in June, 136 in July and 36 in August.
The Rapid City NWS added a Doppler radar system in 1996 which greatly improved the agency’s ability to “see” storms, Sanders said.
It also provided a view into three counties in northeastern Wyoming that didn’t have much radar coverage, Sanderson said.
The KELOLAND weather team closely watches potential storms across the state, Mundt said.
“We can say there is an indication of strong rotation (to a storm),” Mundt said.
But KELOLAND Weather, like other weather news organizations, does not issue weather watches or warnings.
“We follow the NWS watches and warnings,” Mundt said.
Mundt said he monitors an online chatline that shares when NWS warnings are issued.
Gillispie said the NWS partners with local meteorologists like those in KELOLAND in “getting the word out to the public.”
TV Weather has a close connection to viewers and provides a way to inform the public about storms, Gillispie said.
If there is a storm is it different during a drought?
One of the dangers during a dry season or drought season storm is dry lightning, Mundt said.
The rain from a storm can dry up before it hits the ground, he said. The dry lightning in such storms can cause a fire, Mundt said.
The danger of dry lightning can be more of a threat in western South Dakota, Mundt said.
Because drought condition storms form higher above the ground, “strong wind gusts are more common,” Sanders said.
While lightning during dry conditions has the potential to start fires, drought storms can still produce hail and have very strong winds in the Aberdeen NWS service area, Lueck said.
It’s dry but is that the reason for fewer storms?
“It’s not the drought that is causing the lack of severe weather,” Gillispie said.
It’s the conditions that create the drought that causes a lack of severe weather.
Mundt said back in April conditions began to form that contributed to dry conditions and drought.
The west and southwest were heating up and the heat continued through June and July, he said.
The heat spread through South Dakota and the midwest, Mundt said.
Moisture systems were created in the southern gulf but were halted by the cool temperatures in Texas.
Those factors and several others helped to create dry and drought conditions, Mundt said.
Severe storm season starts in May and ends in September.
“In September things start to quickly (quiet) down,” Sanders said of the Rapid City region.
“Our peak month is June. It trails off in September but we can still get some severe weather even in October,” Lueck said of the Aberdeen region.
Although, this year storm activity has picked up in August.
Mundt said the KELOLAND meteorologists have noticed a possible uptick in storms in the second half of August over the past few years.
The recent increase and some in the past years are influenced by crops creating humidity that feeds any potential storm system, continued heat in some southern states as temperatures start cooling in South Dakota, Mundt said.
Crops can keep temperatures hotter and stickier at night even when temperatures may have cooled some during the day, Mundt said. That can feed a potential storm, he said.