South Dakota cities rack up record precipitation totals in 2019

Water begins to pour onto State Highway 37 north of Ethan, as water levels continue to rise following a storm on Sept. 12 in Davison County. (Matt Gade / Republic)
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — An unprecedented wet year in South Dakota came through in the year-end facts and figures, according to the National Weather Service, with numerous communities breaking precipitation records.

The NWS office in Sioux Falls confirmed Wednesday, Jan. 1, that Mitchell broke the single-year record for precipitation, logging 36.5 inches of water in 2019, edging out the 1993 record of 36.19 inches. The record was toppled thanks to a 15-inch snowfall in the final days of the year on Dec. 29-30, with the storm bringing 1.28 inches of precipitation over a three-day span.

For the year, Mitchell broke 13 different daily or monthly records related to snowfall or precipitation, including recording the wettest September on record when 7.63 inches of rain fell as the community dealt with debilitating flooding. Mitchell also got 15 inches of snow on April 11, which was a daily record for the city and added to a wet spring.

Mitchell also had 117 days — or 32 percent of the days in the year — with at least one-hundredth of an inch of precipitation. Prior to 2019, the average number of days per year with one-hundredth of an inch of precipitation in the decade was 86.9 days, according to records kept by The Daily Republic.

A number of other area communities also snapped precipitation records in 2019, a year that has already been deemed the state’s wettest in 125 years of records, according to South Dakota State University Extension.


In Howard, 43.23 inches of precipitation fell, breaking the 1942 record of 36 inches by more than 7 inches, according to NWS data. To the west in Forestburg, 40.48 inches of precipitation was recorded, breaking a 104-year-record dating back to 1914, snapping the old mark of 36.41 inches.

Records also went down in the Charles Mix County town of Academy (40.21 inches, breaking a 1982 record of 35.36 inches) and Gregory (40.68 inches, breaking a 1977 record of 37.48 inches). The annual record broken by the largest amount was in Madison, where 44.58 inches of precipitation fell, breaking the 1986 record by more than 8 inches. Like Mitchell, Madison dealt with extensive flooding in mid-September.

Sioux Falls and Canton were among the South Dakota cities to set precipitation records in back-to-back years. Sioux Falls received 39.54 inches of water, topping the 2019’s record mark of 39.17 inches, and also broke the record for the most precipitation for any two-year span by more than 26 inches, as well.

Mitchell’s two-year precipitation total was 58.5 inches, or more than 15 inches above normal. The city’s two-year record is 63.76 inches, which was recorded in 1908 and 1909.

Rapid City also had its wettest year on record, logging 31.73 inches of precipitation, and the communities of Pierre, Watertown, Mobridge and Sisseton each had at least 29.5 inches of precipitation, which was at least 10 inches above normal in each location.

The area communities of Wessington Springs and Menno were among the locations to narrowly miss setting a record. Wessington Springs had 39.04 inches of precipitation, which is second-most to 41.36 inches in 2010. In Menno, 2019 will rank third all-time after receiving 36.45 inches of precipitation. The record remains 1944’s mark of 39.62 inches, and 2018 had the second-most precipitation on record in the town.

South Dakota’s Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network, or CoCoRaHs — which takes weather measurements from volunteers around the state — logged 20 sites with 40 inches of precipitation or more in 2019, including the state leader near Bison, with 54.38 inches recorded. Leading area communities included CoCoRahs sites near Burke, Emery and Stickney, which each had at least 46 inches or more, while sites near Pukwana and Fulton recorded at least 40 inches.


Destany Carroll uses her snowblower to clear the sidewalk on Dec. 30 in Mitchell. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Water surrounds a series of sandbags protecting a lift station in Lake Andes in September. (Matt Gade / Republic)

Water surrounds a series of sandbags protecting a lift station in Lake Andes in September. (Matt Gade / Republic)

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