SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It was a sight Amy Herrick couldn’t take her eyes off.
“I’ve never seen anything like that,” Herrick told KELOLAND News. “You could just kind of see the clear line where the weather had changed, where the sky was changing.”
Herrick was aboard an airplane, flying back to Sioux Falls from Phoenix, early in the evening on May 12th, 2022. That’s when a deadly derecho storm was hitting southeastern South Dakota with a stunning visual “wall of wind” from the storm’s gust front.
Travis Urban was also on the same flight as Herrick. He said he remembers seeing Catfish Bay from the plane and then the storm cloud rolled through and covered Catfish Bay.
“Essentially a black wall that you can see as you were coming in,” Urban said. “I’ve never been on a commercial airplane that took off as fast as we did to gain altitude.”
From the ground, the gust front blocked out sunlight. From the air, Herrick had a different vantage point of the storm clouds. As the plane was getting into Sioux Falls, the air traffic control tower at the Sioux Falls Regional Airport was being evacuated and the flight was rerouted to land in Omaha.
“In hindsight, it’s like, ‘Oh, my God. Crazy.’ We were just trying to figure out what was happening and what was going on,” Herrick said. “I kind of have a fear of flying. So I’m surprised that I was just so caught off guard by what was going on that I wasn’t quite comprehending it.”
Urban said a spring storm in South Dakota isn’t uncommon so it was hard to know how serious the derecho was until they landed.
“You could just see that there was a storm coming,” Urban said. “You could see that it looked like it was going to be more of a storm than just a rain storm.”
The derecho produced more than 150 damaging wind reports, 59 significant wind gusts (75 mph or higher) and resulted in two deaths in South Dakota. The National Centers for Environmental Information listed the May 12, 2022 derecho as a billion-dollar disaster event.
Herrick’s flight ended up landing in Omaha where passengers remained on the plane as it refueled and then came back to land in Sioux Falls. After landing and driving back home in Sioux Falls, Herrick said there was plenty of damage.
“I can’t believe we were in the sky during that,” Herrick said.