Fall’s drought outlook- what we can expect as winter approaches

Wednesday's rain offered a brief burst of moisture, but dry conditions remain.

RAPID CITY, S.D. — Rain Wednesday morning sprinkled some hope across western South Dakota, but it was nowhere near enough precipitation to even put a dent in the state’s drought. Although we’ve caught wind of fall, dry conditions are expected to persist in the near future.

Darren Clabo, South Dakota’s State Fire Meteorologist, offers insight into how the fall forecast will pan out.

“Going forward, at least for the next few weeks, it’s really looking like below average precipitation, really not any precipitation across western South Dakota and even all of South Dakota,” he states.

Dry leaf sits in grass

Dry leaf sits in grass.

Even as temperatures cool off, they’re still expected to be problematic for fire potential. Clabo spoke on anticipated temperatures as well.

“We’re going to be at or even above average for this time of year,” said Clabo. “I don’t think we’re going to see 90 degrees like we’ve been seeing the past couple of days, but that’s going to exacerbate those dry conditions that we are expecting.”

Although these warm and dry skies are ideal for outdoor activities, they’re also conducive to the start and rapid growth of fires. Amidst the overlap of harvest and hunting seasons, it’s important to both enjoy and protect our grasslands and forests.

“There’s going to be a lot of people doing things outdoors, and humans are really good at causing fires. So just really make sure that you’re not going to be the ignition source on the landscape. Pay attention to what you’re doing and have a water source nearby if anything were to start,” Clabo says.

Plenty of dry fuels sit dormant but dangerous across western South Dakota, left in the wake of this year’s drought.

“As we move forward, we’re already a couple of weeks drier than what we would normally be, so it’s definitely going to lead to tilting the scales towards potentially more fire activity in the coming weeks,” adds Clabo.

Temperatures will fall as we approach winter, but vast areas brimming with dry brush continue to pose considerable threats. In fact, some of South Dakota’s major fires take place on chilly days. When teeth are chattering in winter’s bitter air, it’s easy to forget that the ignition of a wildfire is still a concerning possibility.

Clabo emphasizes the fact that fire season is perpetual in South Dakota, reminding citizens that, “We live in a climate where we have a 12 month fire season. Over the past five years, some of our largest fires have actually been during the cool season.”

As you head out to enjoy the pristine beauty our state has to offer, remember to exercise vigilance so that we can maintain our delicate and astounding landscape. Stay mindful of your surroundings this fall and winter, and if you do happen to spot smoke, alert authorities immediately.

Categories: Local News