Post-Prayer, Drought Expands in South Dakota

Last week various pious South Dakotans organized a “Pray for Rain Campaign.” These public Christians petitioned their preferred supernatural being for precipitation on Wednesday, July 12, at 7 p.m.

Statewide rainfall data immediately after the event provided inconclusive evidence at best of the hydrogenerative power of this spiritual activity. So, a full week out, let’s compare the statewide drought maps for July 11 and July 18 from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Drought Monitor:

UNL Drought Monitor SD maps
UNL Drought Monitor SD maps

The portion of South Dakota in official drought conditions increased over the past week from 72.41% pre-rain-prayer to 82.10% post-rain-prayer. The portion of the state experiencing no dry conditions shrank from 6.84% pre-rain-prayer to 0.03% post-rain-prayer. (0.01% of that 0.03% may be the puddle by my curb where First Street still doesn’t drain properly.)

That big red spot in north central South Dakota is “D3”, “Extreme Drought.” None of the state has yet entered the worst category, “D4”, “Exceptional Drought.”

41 Responses to Post-Prayer, Drought Expands in South Dakota

  1. mike from iowa

    The reason prayer didn’t work is predictable. Sin! You know someone somewhere was doing something sinful. That seems to be the reason all prayer fails.

  2. The lowly independent

    Needed to do a rain dance!

  3. Donald Pay

    Stop praying over there in SD. It’s flooding us out in Wisconsin.

  4. Sometimes you are unnecessarily mean and cynical. Do you have a clue what this drought means to family farmers? It certainly is your choice not to believe in God, but in devastating times such as these, it might be best to keep your mouth shut.

  5. Porter Lansing

    I believe in both. Often humor will get us through devastating times better than prayer. Keep up the show, Cory. Some are having a hard time dancing and it’s obvious why. :0)

  6. Porter Lansing

    PS ….. Stop Sinning!! Mike is watching.

  7. Bob Newland

    Cynicism is never unnecessary. Family farmers have always had to weather droughts, floods, fires, blizzards and, especially, the nonsense of the people elected to “represent” them in the various halls of government. The professions of SoDak’s congressional delegation to their deep belief in the “mercy” of god is a more appropriate target than are those of us who laugh at their self-contradictory rhetoric.

    Yes, I realize I can’t resolve the verbs and noun numbers in the previous sentence. If there were a god, I’d be eliminated posthaste.

  8. mike from iowa

    iowa intercedes on Wisconsin’s behalf today. Finally rained here in Obrien Co. Got most of inch so far and hoping, not praying, for more.

  9. Roger Cornelius

    Caroline, here is what mean and cynical is, the alt-right claiming that Senator McCain’s brain cancer is ‘Godly justice’ for challenging Trump and working with Democrats over the past 30 years.

  10. I don’t see anything cynical in the above post or the subsequent comments. I didn’t say that any of the suffering ag producers who may have prayed for rain are merely selfish or lack sincerity or integrity. Donald recognizes the prayer could be working, but in the wrong place, and too well. The Lowly Independent simply suggests that maybe our West River friends need to appeal to some different spirits in collaboration with their Lakota neighbors.

    And I simply report facts: after some humans made a concerted spiritual effort to ease the drought, the drought became more intense and extensive.

    Caroline’s bitter shut up to me is understandable, given the emotional stress of the ag producers whose name she invokes to justify her angry outburst, but her anger is misplaced. This prayer for rain didn’t work. That’s not my fault.

  11. The disclaimer on UNL’s U.S. Drought Monitor website ( is as follows:

    “The data cutoff for Drought Monitor maps is each Tuesday at 8 a.m. EDT. The maps, which are based on analysis of the data, are released each Thursday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time.”

    According to data displayed at, a large portion of north central SD—a region currently designated as “Extreme Drought”—received 3-5 inches of rain in the last 4 days. During the same time period 1-4 inches of rain fell on the majority of northwest SD, a region currently classified as “Severe Drought”. Obviously, it remains to be seen what impact that rain will have on next week’s iteration of the Drought Monitor map, but I’m sure it was a Godsend for the people and things that needed it most.

    Although I’m a Christian who believes in God and the power of prayer, I think it’s a stretch to say He regularly responds to intermittent supplications for rain; however, this time around, you can’t argue with the results ;-)

  12. Caroline. How do you think people will feel when the Republcans take their health insurance aay?

  13. Thanks Hydro Guy. I did some checking of rainfall totals too and was anxious to see what Cory’s reaction to the generally positive reports would be yet not surprised by his conclusion above.
    Mocking Christians is one of his favorite pastimes.

  14. Porter Lansing

    If God made it rain to spite Cory, it still rained. Cory should be praised and Cory should be proud of his little part in making things better. Amen
    Our God works in mysterious ways.

  15. mike from iowa

    Maybe it rained just to spite Cory. I think if you take a close look you will find atmospheric conditions were just right for rain and it rained. No mysteries to it.

    Sorry, I keep forgetting certain peoples don’t hold with science.

    After years of drought I guess enough people in California got pious enough to get their lord to alleviate their long standing drought.

  16. Porter Lansing

    I said IF, Mike. I respect your beliefs and it matters little if someone believes in science. Science is real and needs no justification or support.

  17. mike from iowa

    Sorry for the mix up, Porter. I wasn’t responding to your post. It was more for Doug Lund and HydroGuy. :)

  18. Porter Lansing

    I’m sorry, too Mike. My faith is personal. There’re a lot of different kind of Christians and the prosthelytizers aren’t my people. Somehow SoDak became born again and Vatican central. Very anti-women’s rights.

  19. Perhaps God does not believe that South Dakota has yet learned its 1st grade lesson about sin (i.e. voting for Donald Trump, ignoring Global Warming, and loving the GOP brand of Alternative Christianity).

    Ya – I’m pretty sure that’s why we’ve got THIS draught – because of the morally handicapped majority (62.2% of state voters) ALL of South Dakota has to suffer where it hurts the most – Agriculture. That’s how God works, sometimes.

    It’s worth some consideration.

  20. Couldn’t it be argued that since it did rain in various parts of South Dakota this week after prayer – that there is indeed a statistical correlation between prayer and rain.

  21. Porter Lansing

    Speaking of agriculture, Trump administration is shuttering an ag research building at SDSU. More bad things for farmers are on the way. Might even end Federal crop insurance.

  22. Porter Lansing

    That’s a false equivalence Mr. Sol but it’s believable to me. 😁

  23. Cory, I’m going to be honest, who cares if someone prays for rain!! Do you just like to tick Christians off?

  24. Mr. H can at times be sanctimonious and rude, but it is mostly a personality trait. When you best him in an argument with logic and reason, like you have Ms. Jenny, he will sometimes become enraged. Be warned, for the smallest and most coiffed dogs can often be the ones that nip the most.

  25. Donald Pay

    The rain there can be explained more by the movement/breakdown of the dome of heat the sat over your area for several weeks. This happens naturally during the summer, leading to extended periods of dry weather. Some years those domes last longer or several domes may set up in close succession. If I understand this phenomenon correctly, it often sets up this way because of a certain way the jet stream sets up. When that dome sets up in SD and the jet stream kinks up just right, Wisconsin gets severe storms every day, which is why we are experiencing saturated soils and flooding.

    The weather works in mysterious ways to most of us, but talk to a meteorologist, not God, to find the scientific reason why droughts or stormy periods are occurring, or ending. Neither a meteorologist or God can change the weather, but at least a meteorologist can give you better ideas about when a drought may break.

  26. Porter Lansing

    It usually rains in Eastern SoDak two to three days after it rains in Colorado. I was going to throw a big public prayer and act like it was divine but your weather people predicted it. PS … It rained here this afternoon and it’s our monsoon season, so it’s a daily pattern for a while. So, ESD will get some on Tuesday -Wednesday and Thursday.

  27. They used some kind of cloud seeding technology at the Olympics in China to get rain to fall before it hit outdoor Olympic events – potentially causing event scheduling delays.

    It’d be neat if SD put a program together to grab that moisture out of the air, and drop it in SD – before it gets to some other state.

    Now that’s proactive thinking!

  28. mike from iowa

    Gawd is ‘sposed to be omniscient. Therefore he/she/it already knew you needed rain before you went and pestered him/her/it about it. If he/she/it really gave a hoot about you wouldn’t it stand to reason you would have gotten rain already?

    Or do you feel the need to prostrate yourselves on the altar and go through the motions?

    Which one(s) among you sinned enough so you had rain withheld as punishment?

  29. They’ll be no rain where you’re headed, son. You’ll be praying for it for an eternity, but there will be no answer.

    Unless you soften your heart and follow God’s direction. You still have a chance as long as you have a breath.

  30. LMFAO!!!!

  31. Roger Nehring

    Jenny, I’m gonna be honest here and say that most folks don’t give a floating turd who prays for rain. But when The Pious Ones wave their banner for the world to see, they become somewhat ridiculous and thus invite scrutiny and snarkiness. Plus, sometimes it’s just fun to punch holes in a bag that is too full of hot air.

  32. Doug Lund makes a patently false statement. “Mocking Christians is one of his favorite pastimes.” Bunk. I pass little if any time mocking Christians for their Christianity. I spend more time criticizing Christians for not following their Christianity. And I pass far more time engaging in my actual favorite pastimes of reading, writing, biking, running, walking our dog, traveling, watching videos, and playing computer games.

    The point of this post is not to “mock” Christianity. The point of this post is to test the efficacy of one form of public piety, which is not identical to Christianity, with scientific data. HydroGuy smartly looks into the data and finds that the data I present cuts off at Tuesday, July 18, at 7 a.m. Central/ 6 a.m. Mountain. He then points to that cool precip map and finds that in the four days preceding his comment (the period roughly since the data cut-off of the last drought map), some rain has fallen. “…this time around, you can’t argue with the results,” he concludes.

    Oh yes we can. The prayer happened five days before the rainy period HydroGuy cites. What is the period of efficacy of prayer? Do we grant Yahweh an infinite grace period to move in his mysterious ways and cite any amount of rainfall anywhere from prayer time to Kingdom Come as evidence that our prayers worked? I can go out on my front step, stand on one foot and clap my hands, and throw salt in the air, and claim it’s a rain dance. I’m pretty confident that at some point in the next 30 days, it’ll rain. When that rain finally comes, am I allowed to take credit?

    HydroGuy’s response does not refute the basic claim of the post: folks organized a pray-for-rain event, and it didn’t rain that night, or the next day, or the next, or the next, or the next, or the next, in sufficient amounts to alleviate the drought in South Dakota. At best, HydroGuy’s data suggests that prayer may have a delayed effect (what, God has to clear his call queue?), that even God needs a few days to move the jet stream and moisture around. More likely, any effect prayer might have was drowned out by five days of intervening, confounding effects.

  33. Making it rain just to spite me? Hee hee!

    I have learned that any hypothesis that hinges on my occupying some special place of privilege or attention in the eyes of a god or the cosmos is almost certainly incorrect.

  34. Donald, do those domes tend to move after mid-July? I haven’t reviewed the data, but it feels like there’s always some unsettled, grey, soggy period around the fourth week of July.

  35. Porter Lansing

    Cory … If God made it rain to spite you wouldn’t know and it wouldn’t be because you were “occupying some special place of privilege or attention”. It would be God’s will, which isn’t a commendation. Mocking the faithful is bad karma, as is talking too much about yourself.

  36. I read your blog posts every day. I am a loyal registered Democrat. I cry when I visit the George McGovern museum in Mitchell, thinking about what the world may have been like had he been elected. I believe health care is a right, not a privilege. I believe in affirmative action, climate change, science, and God. I also believe sometimes you (Corey) are unnecessarily mean and cynical. Making a handful of people look like nut jobs for the innocent act of praying for rain is the kind of thing that gives “liberals” a negative reputation. Implying that all Christians are right wing nut jobs who believe bad things happen as punishment from God is like saying all Muslims are terrorists. I believe Jesus was a Democrat. He fed the hungry, befriended the outcasts, threw the money changers out of the temple etc etc.

  37. Donald Pay

    Cory, that 4th of July soggy period is something that we kids in Sioux Falls recognized back in the 1960s when we wanted to blow off fireworks. I think it’s just East River, though. One of the things I noticed in Pierre and Rapid City was a lot less rain on the 4th. And in Madison, WI, we generally have a big mosquito outbreak by the 4th, which makes watching fireworks while spraying on the bug poison, but generally the 4th has been dry. The meteorologists on one of the stations did a little history on 4th of July rain in Madison, WI, and it seems to be dry nearly every year.

  38. Darin Larson

    Cory, you measuring the effect of prayer by rainfall totals within a given period of time of your choosing is as effective at measuring the power of prayer as me looking at the palm of my hand and trying to count the number of Higgs boson particles contained within it. We both have no capacity with which to make the measurements. Prayer isn’t room service. Prayer isn’t an order on Amazon Prime to be reviewed for promptness and customer satisfaction. The answer to our prayers is not always going to be exactly what we want, but it might be exactly what we need.

    If you have no faith in prayer it is useless to you, but if you have faith in prayer it can mean everything.

    Trying to apply human metrics to a spiritual and faith based activity is problematic at best and could give the impression you are mocking prayer and religion at worst.

  39. Back in my old home town, way back in the 1960s, they had 9 Catholic high schools. My mother (very young at the time) noticed that her school prayed, in unison, over the intercom, led by the church priest, every Friday that they shall, “win this evening’s varsity football game.” She remarked to the football coaches and staff that it seems, “quite silly praying to win a football game – while every one of the 9 other schools we ever play is also praying to win the same football game. How in the heck does God choose the winner?” was her pressing continuous question which was only answered with statements like, “you think tooo much [little girl].” – and that answer was never good enough for that bad ass young professional woman in the making.

    It’s true Independent thought that makes a wise human being. Praying for rain is like praying to find your car keys. In time, you will very likely find your car keys no matter what kind of Devil, witch, warlock, or false god, worshiper you might be.

    A tip on finding your car keys, keep cool, keep your head on straight, don’t get frustrated, and you’ll find them faster than if your in an insane rush. In a way, God is always (or might be [if God exists]) helping those who help themselves.

  40. Moral of the story: win the football game because you worked harder and smarter than your opponent. If there’s a God, that is His law.

  41. Darin, I haven’t chosen a period yet—I’m just looking at the period that’s happened so far, and I’m asking what the proper test period is. I I wear my lucky shirt to help the Twins win, it is only logical that an observer be able to ask if my lucky shirt is supposed to help the Twins win on the night I wear the shirt, for the week after I wear the shirt, or a majority of games for the rest of the season. If my claim is, “Wearing my lucky shirt will make the Twins win at some unspecified time in the future,” my claim is unverifiable and thus useless.

    I’m not mocking the rain prayer any more than you are. Your brilliant and faithful explanation of prayer is as much a critique of the Pray for Rain event as my scientific approach. You complement my critique, actually. You explain how prayer really works, on the person, not on the external natural world. You explain that Christian prayer isn’t witch doctory. It isn’t about believing in God so hard that you can do magic tricks.

    Critiquing, telling Christians they are doing Christianity wrong, isn’t mockery. It’s coaching. And doing Christianity wrong isn’t an “innocent act,” as Caroline claims. It’s an error that should be corrected.