SD official sees hope for drought relief next year

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. -- South Dakota's state climatologist sees some hope for drought recovery next year, but not this fall.

The U.S. Drought Monitor map shows about 75 percent of South Dakota in severe, extreme or exceptional drought. Annual precipitation is 5-7 inches below average in many places.

"At this point, we won't catch up this fall," Dennis Todey told the Argus Leader newspaper. "If we were to turn on a dime and have our wettest fall on record, we would have an opportunity to make up a decent amount. But I don't see that happening."

That means a wet winter and spring is the only hope for drought relief. History offers some hope, according to Todey.

"Historically, even during the Dust Bowl, we don't have two years back-to-back this bad," he said. "That's why we think we will see some recovery next year."

Todey said his optimism is amplified by the fact that this year's drought followed a handful of unusually wet years.

This year's drought has affected everything from crops to rivers to wildlife and even gravel roads.

Five hundred miles of gravel roads in Pennington County have not been smoothed since early August because of fears that sparks from grading equipment will cause wildfires, the Rapid City Journal reported.

"Most roads are drivable, they are just not a comfortable drive," county Highway Superintendent Hiene Junge said.