Drought Conditions Expand Across Western South Dakota and Northeastern Wyoming

Updated on Thursday, September 6, 2012
The next planned update will be in October.


Drought conditions as of September 4. Extreme /D3/ drought conditions expanded across most of northeastern Wyoming and western South Dakota. This includes areas south of Highway 212 in South Dakota and areas south of Interstate 90 in northeastern Wyoming. Severe /D2/ drought conditions are located across a portion of northwestern South Dakota, mainly south of Highway 20 and north of Highway 212. The rest of northwestern South Dakota, north of Highway 20 to the North Dakota State Line, was classified as moderate /D1/ drought conditions. 

Summary of Impacts

  • Most dugouts and stock ponds across northeastern Wyoming and South Dakota have dried up or are an unsuitable water source for cattle and other animals. Water shortages are causing ranches to sell cattle and truck water to their cattle.
  • Some small creeks and streams have begun to dry up and no longer contain flowing water.
  • Non-domestic water has been shut off in some western rivers and streams including Battle Creek and the Cheyenne River.
  • Numerous fire bans are in place due to dry fuels and extreme fire danger. Several large fires have burned areas in northeastern Wyoming, southwestern South Dakota, and south central South Dakota. Most of these fires were caused by dry lightning which are thunderstorms that contain lightning with little to no rainfall.
  • Pasture and rangeland conditions are reported as very poor across northeastern Wyoming and most of western South Dakota.
  • Very dry conditions are hindering yield and quality of hay being produced. The outlook for hay production statewide is poor.
  • Several counties have been declared a drought disaster area.

Climate Summary

  • Most locations in northeastern Wyoming and western South Dakota received only a fraction of their normal precipitation in August; another in a long string of drier than normal months since March. Annual rainfall amounts are two to six inches below average so far this year.
  • Summer 2012 was one of the warmest ever recorded in the Black Hills Region. All stations had average temperatures among the ten warmest on record with Mission 14S, Gillette 4SE, and Newcastle setting new records for their warmest average temperatures between June 1 through August 31.  

Precipitation and Temperature Outlook

The outlook for September indicates a greater chance of above average temperatures with equal chances of average, above average, and below average precipitation. Average September high temperatures are in the lower to middle 70s with average low temperatures in the middle to upper 40s. Average precipitation for September is one to two inches. 

Hydrologic Summary and Outlook

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, streamflows over the past 28 days are below normal. Some smaller creeks and streams have begun to dry up.

The table below shows reservoir percent of average capacity on September 6 according to the Bureau of Reclamation (USBR).

Reservoir Percent of Normal Feet from Full
Angostura 60% 12.6 ft
Belle Fourche 40% 16.1 ft
Deerfield 98% 0.8 ft
Keyhole 82% 3.9 ft
Pactola 87% 8.7 ft
Shadehill 68% 8.8 ft

Fire Weather Outlook

Fuels were classified as critical in most areas across northeastern Wyoming and western South Dakota. The seasonal significant wildland fire potential outlook for September shows above normal significant fire potential across South Dakota and northern Wyoming. Significant fire potential is the likelihood that a wildland fire event will require mobilization of additional resources from outside the area in which the fire situation originates. Contact your local county officials for the latest burning restrictions.

National Wildland Fire Significant Fire Potential Outlook (.pdf file) 

Questions or Comments

If you have any questions or comments about this drought information please contact,

Melissa Smith
Drought Focal Point
National Weather Service
300 East Signal Drive
Rapid City South Dakota 57701
Telephone 605-341-9271
E-mail melissa.smith@noaa.gov


The drought monitor is a multi-agency effort involving NOAA's National Weather Service (NWS) and National Climatic Data Center, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), state and regional center climatologists, and the National Drought Mitigation Center. Information for this statement has been gathered from NWS and Federal Aviation Administration observation sites, state cooperative extension services, USDA, USBR, and USGS.

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