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Darren R. Clabo

State Fire Meteorologist, South Dakota

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Current Conditions at SDSM&T


Daily Weather Discussion (updated 12/19/2014 09:17)  (click your refresh button to ensure most recent forecast)

A small upper level wave passed through the state overnight and a similarly weak upper ridge is now off to our west. This is putting SD in northwesterly flow aloft. The current surface analysis places a warm front across the state which is stretching from west-central ND through MBG, PIR and southward through north-central NE. West of this boundary temperatures are in the 20s and 30s while east of it they are in the teens and 20s. Fog is being reported over eastern SD with southerly winds while westerly winds have brought in clear skies west.

High temperatures will range from near 30 east to the lower 40s west. Temperatures might reach close to 50 on the eastern slopes of the Black Hills. The warm front will move slightly east today with westerly winds behind it (over western SD) and southerly winds ahead of it (over eastern SD). Skies will remain cloudy east and sunny west.

Similar temperatures will be seen tomorrow with highs ranging from the low 30s east to the 40s west. Partly to mostly cloudy skies will be in place east with mostly clear skies west. Winds too will be similar today with the dichotomy remaining in place: southerly winds east and westerly winds west.

Critical Fire Weather

No critical fire weather is expected today.

Note: All NWS Fire Weather Zone Forecast products have been temporarily discontinued until fire season returns in Spring 2015. 


Tornado Awareness Course

The National Disaster Preparedness Training Center (NDPTC) is offering a one-day, eight hour course in tornado awareness in Rapid City. This is a FEMA-certified course open and free to all members of the community. It is especially geared towards law enforcement, fire departments, other first responders, emergency managers, government officials, mass care services, and educators.

Two classes are being offered: January 8 and January 10, 2015 from 0800-1700 at the Pennington County Emergency Operations Center, Rapid City, SD.

Registration is available online at: Click on the training tab and scroll to the dates to find our classes here in Rapid City. The flyer for the course can be access here.

For more information or for questions on how to register, please contact me at either 605-545-4793 or at


2014 SD Fire Potential Outlook

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Weekly Weather Update:

Weekly Weather Update:  Monday 4 August 2014

 (Climate) Several reports from fire managers and agricultural-related interests reported conditions worsening with the dry conditions across much of the state.  The worst areas continued to be in south central SD.  The US Drought Monitor map reflected the changes last week with widespread introduction of D0 (Abnormally Dry) conditions based largely on shorter term precipitation shortfalls (largely since late June).  Grassland vegetation is quickly drying.  Crops in the worst areas are turning partially brown indicating stress from limited moisture.

Drought maps were hard to define from streamflows and greenness indexes in the west.  Cooler conditions throughout much of the summer and wet conditions until late June have been able to mask the dryness until recently.

During July most of the state was less than 50% of average precipitation with totals less than an inch in the southeast, south central to northwest and around Aberdeen.  Northern Meade County did not record any precipitation during the month.  The lack of heat during the month with most of the state running 2-4 F below average limited the problems.  These temperatures will likely put the state in the top 15 coldest Julys on record. 

Isolated precipitation has started falling since the start of August helping some recovery in isolated locations (Dennis Todey)

(Weather) The upper level ridge that has been plaguing the western US is finally breaking down as a potent closed low moves from British Columbia into Alberta. Water vapor imagery shows plenty of monsoonal moisture in place over the western US beneath the now-weakening ridge. There are Flash Flood watches out for the Great Basin region and much of that moisture will move our way once the ridge breaks down. More to come on that topic below. Another weaker wave is pushing through the NW'erly flow over ND and this has spawned a few marginally severe thunderstorms over the SD/ND border. These storms will continue to drift southeast with time. Some other showers are found over central and south-central SD this morning while western SD remain mostly clear.

Chances for showers and thunderstorms will increase throughout the day as another upper wave tracks through the region and diurnal heating takes its toll. High temperatures will climb well into the 80s to near 90 over southwestern SD tapering off to near 80 over the Coteau region. Easterly winds will continue throughout the day. The notable issue today will be the spatial coverage of precipitation. Obviously, there are ongoing thunderstorms over parts of the state and these will likely continue as the preexisting midlevel instability is realized and further surface based heating (and therefore instability) grows. Farther west, storms are likely to form over the mountains of WY and over the Black Hills later this afternoon. The high resolution models are showing storms developing over the Hills from 1600-1800 with rain pushing into western SD from WY after 1900. A few storms may be marginally severe with hail on the order of quarters but no big hail is likely. A few of these storms could have some gusty winds with them as well. Minimum RHs will range from 35% over the southwest to 50% over the northeast part of the state.

Scattered precipitation will likely continue over portions of SD through the night and into tomorrow morning. Heavy rain will then redevelop over the state throughout the day tomorrow. With very high precipitable water values (the amount of moisture in the atmosphere) in place along with slow storms motions, there may be a need to raise a few local flood advisories… this will need to be monitored. High temperatures will be in the 70s and 80s with a high dependence on cloud cover while the winds will remain out of the east. Minimum RHs will be higher than today.

East to southeast winds will continue for Wednesday and Thursday as a high pressure system remains off to the northeast. Temperatures again will be in the 70s and 80s with a high dependence on cloud cover. A few showers and thunderstorms are likely each day over southwestern SD and the Black Hills while the rest of the state should be mostly clear, although a stray afternoon thunderstorm cannot be ruled out. Heavy rain and small hail are the primary threats. Minimum RHs will again be from 30-50% over western and eastern SD, respectively.

Continued chances of afternoon showers and thunderstorms will continue Friday-Sunday. High temperatures will range from the upper 70s to near 90 with Saturday likely being the warmest day. East to southeast winds are expected through Sunday at which time a weak front may push through the region. Minimum RHs will remain well above critical values statewide.

Summary: This week will bring daily chances of showers and thunderstorms with heavy rain possible tomorrow through early Wednesday morning. The 5-Day total precipitation forecast is attached below. Temperatures will be at or below seasonal norms and no critical fire weather expected. (Darren Clabo)

(Fire/Fuels) Fire activity in the zone is picking up with normal drying patterns. RAW’s stations out in the south central portion of western prairie of SD are consistently producing inputs into NFDRS the past week that are producing “High “ and “Very High” observed fire danger ratings. In Nebraska, Crawford VFD tackled again another fast moving fire six miles west of Crawford that required two SEAT’s to corral the fire last evening. I would expect that fire behavior to be replicated in any ponderosa pine/grass fuel model in the Southern Black Hills of SD for the next week once the wet weather pattern clears the area latter in the week.  And I would expect that the western Pine Ridge country of Nebraska is going to be more available for fire as well in the forested areas. The only thing holding back critical fire behavior from occurring is the lack of strong afternoon winds and still unseasonably high relative humidity during the afternoon burning period.  If that starts to turn around, with drying fuel beds that are occurring the zone, expect critical fire behavior to start to occur, such as spotting and fires whirls.  Great Plains Dispatch is always posting updates to the ERC charts every week. Take a look for yourself and see how the ERC trends this year are climbing past average and it looks to continue that trend. Remember that ‘average’ in August in this country means fires. (Jim Strain)

*** NOTE: Next update on Monday 11 August ***




Darren Clabo, SD State Fire Meteorologist:

Dennis Todey, SD State Climatologist:

Jim Strain, SD Assistant Fire Chief:



Darren R. Clabo * State Fire Meteorologist/Instructor * Institute of Atmospheric Sciences

South Dakota School of Mines & Technology * 501 East Saint Joseph Street * Rapid City, SD 57701 * (O) 605-394-1996 * (C) 605-381-9253 *