2012 Black Hills Weather Events

Drought Returns: Following a year of abundant moisture in 2011, precipitation was considerably less in 2012. Weather observing stations across the Black Hills region received only 45 to 80 percent of annual moisture through November, after most measured above normal precipitation last year. No snow fell in March, normally the snowiest month of the year. Sixteen locations set records for the driest March while 19 stations set records for lowest snowfall. The entire summer season was drier than normal, and Fort Meade/Sturgis and Winner had their driest summers on record. Many sites did not receive any precipitation for the entire month of September. By the end of 2012, most of the region was in extreme to exceptional drought—the worst two categories—and the rest of the region in severe drought.

Warmest Year: 2012 will become the warmest year on record for the Black Hills region with average temperatures through mid-December running one to three degrees above the previous records; most of which were established in 2006, 1987, and 1934. Four stations set monthly high temperatures the first week of January, and both the Rapid City Regional Airport and NWS office recorded their earliest 70 degrees on January 5. Twenty stations had the warmest March on record, with daily records set on several days. Summer was one of the warmest seasons in the Black Hills region; rivaling the summers of 2006, 1988, and 1936. Mission 14S, Gillette 4SE, and Newcastle recorded their highest average summer temperatures. Numerous daily and several monthly high temperature records were set when temperatures soared above 100 degrees on June 26 and August 29.

The detailed annual temperature and precipitation summary will be available shortly after January 1.

Wildfires: Warm, dry, and occasionally windy conditions led to an active fire season, which began early in the spring and lasted well into fall; and prompted local officials to issue drought disaster declarations, burn bans, and cancel Independence Day fireworks. With no snow on the ground in March, several fires grew rapidly through last year’s tall dead grass, including two inside the Rapid City city limits. Lightning from dry thunderstorms ignited several large fires during the summer.

October Winds: An intense storm system tracking across the northern tier of the United States produced very strong wind gusts over the Black Hills region October 17 and 18. Gusty northwest winds increased behind a cold front during the early morning of October 17 with a gust reaching 73 mph near Parmelee on the Rosebud Indian Reservation. A gust of 81 mph was recorded at the National Weather Service office in Rapid City on October 18.

Severe thunderstorms:
Only two tornadoes were verified during 2012. A large tornado moved across pastures in southern Fall River County June 22. It destroyed a barn and several sheds on a ranch north of Ardmore. A small tornado touched down briefly and snapped trees in the southern Black Hills between Pringle and Hot Springs on June 7.
More damage was caused by straight line thunderstorm winds than hail. Winds estimated at 90 mph blew roofs off buildings along Kadoka’s Main Street on May 18. Several bands of thunderstorms crossed the western South Dakota plains the evening of June 9. Strong winds and large hail beat crops north of Wall; overturned two semi-trailer trucks near Philip; and destroyed barns, sheds, and corrals southeast of Dupree. On July 21; two mobile homes were rolled and completely destroyed, a stick-built house lost a large portion of its roof, and several other houses were damaged by downburst winds near Oglala. A windstorm damaged buildings from Hot Springs to Buffalo Gap on July 23 while another storm caused damage in Newell the same night.
The largest hail reported was also the season’s first severe thunderstorm when softball sized hail (4 1/4 inches in diameter) fell south of Mission on March 18. Another report of softball sized hail came from southwest of Edgemont on June 22. The strongest thunderstorm wind gust recorded was 90 mph at the Belle Fourche Airport on July 5, which blew the door off a hangar.
 
Few Winter Storms:
            A winter storm brought snow to much of the northern Plains and upper Midwest February 28-29. Most areas received only two to five inches of snow, and part of northwestern South Dakota, the northern Black Hills, and northern Tripp County measured six inches or more. The highest snowfall report was 10.5 inches south of Lemmon.
            No major winter storms occurred during the fall and early winter, although two small systems produced localized heavy snow. The season's first measurable snow was on October 5. Two to six inches of snow fell across northeastern Wyoming and the southern Black Hills, with a small area of eight to ten inches reported north of Custer. A narrow band of snow developed over northeastern Wyoming and moved across northwestern South Dakota December 6-7. Meade County received four to eight inches of snow during the night, with a report of ten inches near Marcus.
 


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