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.”
According to UNL’s Drought Monitor, as of July 11, 72% of South Dakota land was in drought, and another 21% was “abnormally dry.”
On Wednesday, July 12, Secretary of State Shantel Krebs used her Facebook page to promote the “Pray for Rain Campaign,” an effort put together by rancher Tim Amdahl, Pastor Scott Craig, John Witherspoon College (enrollment: 40), Family Heritage Alliance, Rapid City Ministerial Association, Watchmen on the Wall South Dakota, and Black Hills National Day of Prayer. They called on South Dakotans to drop everything Wednesday at 7 p.m. and pray to God for rain.
Here are the NOAA maps showing how much precipitation South Dakota got on each of the last seven days, July 8 through July 14:
NOAA’s precipitation data archive shows that July 12 produced the highest average precipitation across all reporting stations in South Dakota for the month of July so far:
Average precip, all SD stations
However, much of the July 12 precipitation at West River reporting stations happened before the 7 p.m. prayer time:
Since May 1, eight other days with no organized “Pray for Rain” activities have had higher statewide station-average precipitation amounts than July 12. (Two of those days were Sundays, May 21 and June 11.)
If we look at cities in the drier drought areas, we find that since prayer time Wednesday, Aberdeen has gotten zero precip. Pierre got a trace on Wednesday and nothing since. Mobridge got 0.03 inches yesterday, below the 0.10 average rainfall for July 14. And Faith—Faith!—got nothing.
I’m not sure how quickly God clears his prayer queue or how his response time compares to Allah, Buddha, Wakan Tanka, or Indra. The forecast says clear and hot over most of the state this weekend, then chance of storms Monday and Tuesday. We’ll check the UNL Drought Monitor again next week for any signs of the righteous wreaking big changes on the drought map.
Dry enough for you? According to UNL’s U.S. Drought Monitor, since last week, drought has expanded in South Dakota, with a fair chunk of north central South Dakota now reaching the third step—”Severe Drought”—on the five-step drought scale:
Dry conditions prevail over all of North Dakota and almost everywhere in South Dakota except the area where Patrick Lalley thinks Billie Sutton should do all of his campaigning.
By those numbers, this drought is not unusual. More South Dakotans were living under drought conditions last August, through the winter and spring of 2015, and briefly during the planting season in 2014.
I woke last night to the sound of hail. According to Gordon Howie, Aberdeen must have sinned:
Grapefruit sized hail battered parts of Western South Dakota. Wind storms have taken grain bins and buildings. Tornados and flash floods have caused significant damage.
Does it make you wonder what is going on?
The God I know and serve is a loving God. He also has a history of dealing harshly with those who refuse His love and reject His principles. If you don’t think so, you should re-read the Bible. Both the Old Testament and the New have documentation of the wrath of God.
At the very least, it wouldn’t hurt for us to look around and examine the way we live [Gordon Howie, “Is God Mad?” The Right Side, 2015.06.21].
New Orleans, Haiti, now South Dakota… come on, Pat—er, Gordon! Blaming adverse natural phenomena on angry supernatural beings is primitivist bushwa. Humans have had a tendency to project their childhood fears on the vast unknown since prehistoric times. Unlike our remote ancestors, Howie doesn’t have the excuse of not knowing the science behind weather to leave a vacuum into which he may pour his fears that the Father will come home to the cave or hut and find his children broke the gourds.
Howie’s hail hypothesis also mocks his own God as an arbitrary, capricious being. For an omnipotent being, surely capable of accessing advanced targeting technology, Yahweh is a poor marksman. I more explicitly refuse God’s love and reject more of his principles than most of the South Dakotans who’ve gotten hailed, tornadoed, or flooded in the past month, and last night’s spotty hail didn’t break any of my windows or dent my car (which is sheltered now in the garage of our newly acquired house! Whoo-hoo! Blessings of Prosperity Gospel without a single prayer or tithe to Joel Osteen!). God’s wasting ammo on the Black Hills when he could be decimating ISIS.
Weather happens. Rain falls on the just and the unjust. Warning people to get right with God lest earthly disaster befall them is a cheap trick that reflects childish fears and medicine-show chicanery, not solid Christian theology.
Throughout April, Ty Gerbracht, manager for forest recreation at the Pactola Reservoir, had been hoping to avoid a drought at Pactola Reservoir, so she prayed for rain.
She had no idea how effective those prayers would be.
“This is my payback,” she said. “I prayed so hard for rain because I didn’t want to start the camping season under a fire ban. I just didn’t mean for it to rain this much.”
…The reservoir is considered full at 4,580.2 feet above sea level, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. The reservoir is now 4,587.2 feet above sea level, which breaks the record of 4,585.87 that had been set in 1965 [Scott Feldman, “Pactola Reservoir Flooding, But Remains Open,” Rapid City Journal, 2015.06.08].
Gerbracht works for Forest Recreation Management, a private concessionaire for the USDA Forest Service. Now you see? If the government ran its own parks and maintained a strict separation of church and state, none of this flooding would have happened.
Despite some strong gusty winds the fire is 30% contained and consuming invasive cheatgrass at rates the previous human inhabitants of the Black Hills would have yawned.
600 years ago 20 million bison migrating north would be cropping those grasses ahead of Spring thunderstorms while people following them gathered dry dung to fuel campfires.
The Rocky Mountain Type II Interagency Incident Management Team ordered will ensure that structures are protected; and, the event will give way to greening conditions after light rain forecast for this weekend.