‘15 Wetter Than ‘72 In Parts Of Black Hills

Oct 23, 2015

The top photo shows dry grass in February of 2015 when the fire danger in the Black Hills spiked. The bottom photo was taken in June when flooding was washing out roads like this one crossing Antelope Creek.
Credit Charles Michael Ray

Pactola Dam could see the wettest year on record with over 29 inches of rain so far.  Right now 2015 is tracking a close second to the record year of 1962.   

Both years are higher than the 1972 precipitation, the year of the Black Hills Flood.    Weather officials say most of the rain in 1972 fell downstream from Pactola in one large burst.

The Rapid City Regional Airport is tracking as the third wettest year on record.  So far a little more than 24 inches have fallen at the airport.   1946 holds the record there with over 27 and a half inches of precipitation.

Melissa Smith is a Hydrologist with the National Weather Service.  She says 2015 showed both very dry and very wet periods.  She says the first months of year from about January to April were among the driest ever recorded.

“All the way up until about Mother’s Day.  Then we had our Mother’s Day snowstorm where we got over a foot of snow in the area.   And that really changed our weather patterns so if you were to just look at the time period between May and now it is definitely been a very wet period,” says Smith.       

Downtown Rapid City has a period of record going back further, and it didn’t see the same thunderstorms that tracked over the town’s airport this summer, so Smith says it’s not yet in the top 10 wettest years so far.  

Across the state Sioux Falls is seeing a year closer to average precipitation with about 25 inches of rain to date.  

The records below are  thanks to NOAA.  You can find more from the Rapid City National Weather Service Office here.

Downtown Rapid City:
Annual precipitation:
•    23.41” since Jan 1, 2015 (as of 6 AM 10/23)
•    12th wettest
•    Wettest was 1962 with 28.89”
•    annual average is 19.79”

Rapid City Airport:

Annual precipitation:
•    24.10” since Jan 1, 2015 (as of 6 AM 10/23)
•    3rd wettest
•    Wettest was 1946 with 27.70”
•    annual average is 16.29”

Pactola Dam:

Annual precipitation:
•    29.25” since Jan 1, 2015 (as of 7 AM 10/23)
•    2nd wettest
•    Wettest was 1962 with 29.25”
•    annual average is 20.31