Nearly a week after blizzards and heavy rains wreaked havoc across the Midwest, the forecast calls for warmer temperatures, which could lead to snow melt and further flooding.
Northeastern South Dakota is packed with snow, and as highs reach the upper 40s by the weekend, it’s possible that snow melt will flood lower parts of the James River and the Big Sioux River. Early estimates are that the rivers will crest around April 1, according to South Dakota State Climatologist Laura Edwards.
“Levels could be as high as we saw last week,” she said.
Water levels should be slower to rise than the week before, Edwards said, but that could change if it rains. There is a wetter pattern on way to southern South Dakota, according to the outlook for the next two weeks.
South Dakota State University Extension put together a webpage with resources for flooding at extension.sdstate.edu/tags/flood.
Those watching frost depth and soil moisture can find tools to monitor conditions through Mesonet. Information from the network of weather stations across South Dakota can be found at climate.sdstate.edu.
Before the mid-March storm, livestock producers had to deal with bitter cold temperatures as calving season began. Wind chills reached the negative 50s in some areas, and Edwards said they heard of some losing calves due to extreme cold. Webster recorded a wind chill of 61 below zero Jan. 29.
“There was some very, very cold weather,” said Nathan Edwards, engineer and director of Mesonet.
As of mid-March, 22 of the last 30 days brought a wind chill of 20 below or lower recorded by at least one weather station across the state.
For those filing for losses through the Livestock Indemnity Program, Mesonet added information on the lowest wind chill temperatures recorded each day. The data goes back to 2015. It is available under “Archives” at climate.sdstate.edu.
At Johnson-Rose Angus, a commercial and purebred seedstock operation, in Mobridge, South Dakota, calving started March 1. They ran some heaters in the barn for the new calves, but they were fortunate to miss the worst of the cold weather, said Bailey Johnson.
In Mobridge, they have had to deal with heavy snow this year. The northern South Dakota town recorded 76.2 inches of snow for 2018-19 season through March 17, which broke a record set in 1997.
“There’s so much, there’s nowhere to go with it anymore,” said Johnson, 27, who works with her parents Stuart and Gay Johnson and aunts and uncles as the fourth generation on the ranch.
The sun was shining as she spoke to the Tri-State Neighbor March 18, and her dad was out clearing snow off of a small pasture close to home. Typically, they send pairs out to pasture right after calving, and the cows calve on their own while out on pasture. That won’t be possible this year.
Because grazing ground was covered in snow, the Johnsons had to bring their herd closer to home and feed more hay than they typically do.
Johnson said the amount of snow is “unreal,” and while caring through livestock through it all is a challenge, they’re making do.
“Ranchers are creative people, and they always find a way to make it despite what Mother Nature does,” she said.