Wettest May on Record

BROOKINGS, S.D. – Moisture during the month of May rapidly transitioned the state out of drought conditions.

“Preliminary data indicate that at least eight climate stations reported their wettest May on record, with more reports yet to come in,” said Laura Edwards, SDSU Extension Climate Field Specialist.

The north central and southwest regions were among the wettest areas of the state. The north central region weather stations recorded their second wettest May since 1895 with a regional average of 6.22 inches; the other wettest was recorded in 1906 when the region-wide average was 6.73 inches.

Records were also set at individual weather stations; Mobridge recorded not only its wettest May, but May 2015 is documented in the record books as the wettest month in the location’s recorded history with 9.32 inches of precipitation. This exceeds the previous record of 8.85 inches in June 1915.

Edwards added that the southwest region of the state had many climate stations that measured two to three times their average May precipitation.  “As a region, the southwest also had its second wettest May on record, with an average of 7.29 inches,” Edwards said. She said the wettest May for this region occurred in 1982, with a region-wide average of 7.34 inches.

Transition out of drought

Following the driest January through April period on record for South Dakota, the May 5, 2015 U.S. Drought Monitor had 78 percent of the state in moderate to severe drought (in D1 and D2 designations.)  By May 26, 2015 only 9 percent of the state was in drought, focused on the southeastern region.

The May statewide average precipitation was 5.88 inches, according to preliminary data. Monthly precipitation ranged from less than three inches to over 10 inches.

Snow was a contributor to May’s moisture levels, with many western South Dakota areas, including Bison, Martin and Interior, which reported more than 10 inches of snowfall on May 10 and 11, setting several new snowfall records for the month of May.

Climate outlook

National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released the June 2015 Climate Outlook which Edwards calls “a mixed bag.”

“The month appears to start off warmer than average, but temperatures could turn towards average or below average by the end of the month,” she said. “Overall, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center has indicated equal chances of below, above and near median temperatures for the month.”

As far as precipitation for the month ahead, Edwards said there is an increased likelihood of above median precipitation across most of the state, with higher probability along the Nebraska border. “If this monthly outlook holds true, it could mean the end to our worries of drought for a while,” she said.

Edwards said El Nino continues to be a factor in this season’s outlook, as a moderate to strong event is currently underway.  “In general, El Nino means less likelihood of long term extreme heat events and less likelihood of extended dry conditions in the summer season.”

So far, Edwards said El Nino has been bountiful in bringing rain to our drought-plagued region of just four weeks ago.

Warm Weather Means Return Of Mosquitoes, West Nile Virus Risk

July through September might be the peak transmission for West Nile virus (WNV) in South Dakota but cases have also occurred in June, said a state health official today. o ignored

“West Nile is a serious, sometimes fatal illness and South Dakota has a disproportionately high number of cases,” said Dr. Lon Kightlinger, state epidemiologist for the Department of Health. “That’ why it’s so important we get in the habit of protecting ourselves with mosquito repellent and doing what we can to get rid of the standing water that give mosquitoes a place to breed.”

Prevent mosquito bites and reduce the risk of WNV with the following precautions:

Apply mosquito repellents (DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus or IR3535) to clothes and exposed skin. Limit exposure by wearing pants and long sleeves in the evening.

Limit time outdoors from dusk to midnight when Culex mosquitoes are most active. Culex are the primary carrier of WNV in South Dakota.

Get rid of standing water that gives mosquitoes a place to breed. Regularly change water in bird baths, outside pet dishes, and drain water from other flower pots and garden containers.

Support local mosquito control efforts.

Personal precautions are especially important for those at high risk for WNV – people over 50, pregnant women, transplant patients, individuals with diabetes or high blood pressure, and those with a history of alcohol abuse. People with severe or unusual headaches should see their physicians.

Since its first human WNV case in 2002, the state has reported 2,168 human cases, including 677 hospitalizations and 32 deaths. Every county has reported cases.

Visit the department’s website at westnile.sd.gov for more information about WNV.

Cultural Heritage Center offering program on Basin League baseball June 20

The Museum of the South Dakota State Historical Society at the Cultural Heritage Center in Pierre is hosting a program about the former Basin League of baseball teams from South Dakota on Saturday, June 20, at 2 p.m.

Reid Riner and the Minnilusa Historical Association will present “Hit ‘Em Where They Ain’t: A Brief History of the Basin League,” in conjunction with the new exhibit  “Play Ball! The National Pastime in South Dakota” at the Cultural Heritage Center. Riner is the executive director of the Minnilusa Historical Association and operates the Pioneer Museum at the Journey Museum in Rapid City.

There is no fee to attend the program but there will be an admission fee to visit the baseball exhibit and museum galleries.

Winner was one of the cities that hosted a Basin League team with Jim Palmer playing ball here in Winner. The last coach of the Basin League team was Harry Wise of Colorado.

From 1953 to 1973, 11 cities in South Dakota hosted baseball teams from the Basin League. An amateur league, most players were college stars, although all teams had some journeymen Major League players. Future stars that played in the league included Bob Gibson, Jim Palmer, Frank Howard and Don Sutton.

“We are especially excited to bring Reid Riner to the Cultural Heritage Center to talk about the Basin League,” said Jay Smith, museum director. “The Basin League played a major role in the history of baseball in South Dakota, and many of our patrons may remember attending Basin League games as youth.”

Persons to be on Lookout for Scams

Winner Police Department reminds residents to be aware of several scams that are floating around Winner.

In one, the caller says they are from the IRS and wants persons to send money. The IRS does not call people and request money.

Also, another scam involves a caller who tells persons they have won prizes and they have to pay the taxes before the prize can be delivered.

The police department says this is a scam and some people have been burned.

The police report there also persons selling CDs and other items without a sales tax license.

“It is summer time and there are a lot of scams out  there. We want people to be aware of these scams and be on their guard,” said police chief Paul Schueth.

Attorney General Jackley Warns South Dakota Citizens of IRS Data Breach

Attorney General Marty Jackley is warning South Dakota citizens that a data breach of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has allowed thieves to access more than 100,000 tax payer’s personal tax information. These identity thieves used a tool on the IRS website to obtain last year’s tax return information.

“Identity theft and security breaches are on the rise and consumers need to be proactive in the manner by which they protect their personal identifying information. Regardless of whether you have been affected by one of the breaches, every consumer should get in the habit of accessing their free credit report to be alerted to matters affecting their credit,” said Jackley.

The IRS has sent letters to the taxpayers whose accounts had been compromised, and it will offer them free credit monitoring.

The Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division encourages consumers to continue the practice of checking their credit reports on a regular basis with the three nationwide credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. Visit www.AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228 for a free copy of your credit report. Consumers are entitled to a free copy from each company every 12 months. If consumers find errors on their report, contact the reporting agency in writing.

Consumers can also place a fraud alert on their credit reports to help mitigate potential issues by contacting the three credit reporting agencies:

Equifax: 1-800-525-6285 Experian: 1-888-397-3742 TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289

South Dakota consumers may contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-800-300- 1986 or consumerhelp@state.sd.us for any questions or concerns. The Privacy Rights handbook is also available and is designed to assist consumers in protecting their privacy. The handbook is available upon request or by accessing the link below:


The Destructive Power of Prairie Fires

s. d. prairie fire


On the prairie, it was a monster of destruction without pity, consuming everything before it.

“Every spear of hay which the farmers had gathered for winter feed is gone, the corn fields are all practically ruined and it is probable that the cattle which were saved will now have to be sold, as it will be impossible for the farmers to buy all their feed,” stated an article in the Aberdeen Weekly about a prairie fire that swept through western Brown County on Nov. 15, 1905, laying ruin to an area about 20 miles long and five miles wide.

Front End of School Year Brings Discussion of Start Time in Fall

By Dan Merritt, Advocate reporter

The end of the school year doesn’t necessarily bring about thoughts of the beginning of the next. In fact, kids would shun that topic.

But adults in Sioux Falls this spring were certainly considering the start of school next fall. They voted to push it back after Labor Day.

The tourism industry in South Dakota generally applauded this step by the biggest school district in the state.

Perhaps other districts would follow suit, it was thought. Assuring the availability of young adults of high school age, at least, as workers on the job through the traditional end of tourism season.

But support for tourism, or the appearance of it, won’t last for long, predicts Alan Armstrong, superintendent of the Colome Consolidated  School District.

“I’ll bet you in two years they’re going to be changing it (in Sioux Falls).” he says, “Because it just doesn’t work in South Dakota to try to start school after Labor Day.”

Honoring Our Heroes Legacy

I’m sure we all remember our parents rousting us out of bed early on Memorial Day to decorate family graves. For many of us this was the first Monday after school got out and the last thing we wanted to do was get up before sunrise!

The process was simple — get dressed, load the tools in the car, and pick up some donuts for the trip. Once at the cemetery, we trimmed the grass, pulled weeds, washed off the headstones and placed flowers on the graves. While working on the graves, mom and dad would share the family lineage with us.

Although decorating soldiers graves with flowers and flags is an ancient custom that dates back to the Civil War, it wasn’t until later in life that I comprehended the significance of  remembering and honoring those who died while serving in the armed forces of this great country.

Our staff is honored to serve as the keepers of the South Dakota “Fallen Heroes Banners Exhibit,” and as such I can’t help but share the sentiment of a poem from Ken Carrolan that appears on the wall in the Tomb Guard quarters at Arlington National Cemetery.  It reads, “You are guarding the world’s most precious gifts, you, you alone are the symbol of 200 million people who wish to show their gratitude and you will march through the rain, the snow, and the heat to prove it.”

With pride and gratitude let us pause on this Memorial Day to remember great and brave Americans — to recognize their valor and rejoice in the blessings their bravery has secured. We know nothing of their individual thoughts and feelings as they met their fate.  But we know they died for a cause greater than self.

They paid the ultimate price for freedom, and it is our duty to keep their legacy fresh in the memories of future generations.

Oliver Wendell Holmes called this “our most sacred holiday,” and he urged that “we not ponder with sad thoughts the passing of our heroes, but to rather ponder their legacy – the life they made possible for us by their commitment and their pain.”

Please, don’t forget to honor those who served and paid the ultimate price.

Larry Zimmerman, Secretary

South Dakota Department of Veterans Affairs

USDA Rural Development Invests $463.8 Million in South Dakota’s Economy in Fiscal Year 2014

USDA Rural Development Acting State Director Bruce Jones announced  that $463.8 million was invested in rural South Dakota communities from October 1, 2013 through September 30, 2014.  As outlined in South Dakota’s 2014 Progress Report, the program funds assist housing, business and community development, water and waste water, energy, distance learning and telemedicine, electric companies and telecommunications. Water and waste water funds are limited to communities of less than 10,000 population. Community facility funding is available to towns of 20,000 population or less. Businesses and industries in communities with up to 50,000 residents can obtain funding through the business programs.

“USDA Rural Development is pleased to assist rural communities with their infrastructure needs and support efforts to improve the quality of life for rural residents living in South Dakota’s rural communities,” said Jones.  “We look forward to continuing to meet the needs of rural residents in Fiscal Year 2015.”

Rural Development’s investment include $7 million in South Dakota rural businesses, supporting 37 projects; $196.8 million in loans and grants to build, repair, rehabilitate, and purchase homes – the agency obligated 71 direct loans and 1,465 guaranteed loans; $6.9 million in community facilities loans and grants – the 26 projects included funding for schools, fire and safety equipment to benefit 6,378 rural South Dakota residents; and $238 million through 32 infrastructure projects to provide reliable and clean drinking water, waste treatment systems, electric power, and telecommunications services in about 40 rural communities in South Dakota.

For example the Deuel Area Development, Inc. (DADI) received a USDA Rural Development Rural Business Enterprise Grant (RBEG), now known as Rural Business Development Grants,  and leveraged it with other funding to provide technical assistance to small businesses in eastern South Dakota; the Mni Waste’ Water Company will soon have a new water treatment plant connected to an abundant water supply – the Missouri River – thanks to USDA Rural Development Water and Waste Disposal funding and other funding from the Indian Health Service and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe; and the Joe and Danielle Donnell family are living in their new home thanks to a USDA Rural Development direct loan that was leveraged with a Homes Are Possible, Inc. (HAPI) silent mortgage, a GROW SD Silent Mortgage for repairs, a GROW SD Silent Mortgage for closing costs, and a NAHI grant for down payment and closings costs.

Since 2009, $2.4 billion has been invested in South Dakota’s economy and of that total, $229.4 million has been secured for projects on reservations.  For more information on reservation projects, see the Rural Development Report on Tribal Projects in South Dakota 2009-2014.

Additional information on Rural Development programs can be found at www.rd.usda.gov/sd or contact a USDA Rural Development office nearest you.

President Obama’s plan for rural America has brought about historic investment and resulted in stronger rural communities. Under the President’s leadership, these investments in housing, community facilities, businesses and infrastructure have empowered rural America to continue leading the way – strengthening America’s economy, small towns and rural communities. USDA’s investments in rural communities support the rural way of life that stands as the backbone of our American values.

Transient Vendor Season in South Dakota

Many transient vendors begin selling products and services in South Dakota starting in the spring.

While many of these vendors are legitimate, the South Dakota Department of Revenue and the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office advise people to take common-sense steps to ensure vendors are reputable, before doing business with them.

“Every single spring the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division receives numerous complaints against transient vendors,” said Attorney General Marty Jackley. “The main goal is to trick consumers into making hasty decisions in purchasing an inferior product, generally at an inflated price. Catching the consumer or business off guard is their most effective tactic.”

“A goal for some bad acting transient vendors can be to take advantage of consumers, and we want to help shield South Dakota citizens from that effort. It is also our responsibility to ensure fair taxes are paid by these traveling businesses,” Doug Schinkel, director of the Department of Revenue’s business tax division said. “If a vendor is unwilling to provide business licenses, consider choosing another vendor. If concerns or questions arise, contact the Department of Revenue.”

If you are considering hiring a person to provide repair or construction services, please be advised to:

•         Ask for a price quote, in advance, in writing.

•         Question the contractor about a permanent address and telephone number, and do not assume that if the information they provide is local, they are a local business.  Transient vendors often have business cards printed with local mailing services or motel addresses and telephone numbers.

•         Ask for a list of local references and check them before making a decision.

•         Ask if the contractor has worker’s compensation and general liability insurance.  If vendors are not properly insured, homeowners may be liable for accidents that occur on their property.

•         Be careful about paying for work in advance; before making final payments, make sure transient vendors have paid their local suppliers or you may be held liable for unpaid materials.

•         Make sure you are completely satisfied with the work before paying the bill, and do not pay more for the job than originally quoted unless you have given written approval for the additional work or cost.

•         Ask the contractor for an excise tax license.

Out-of-state vendors often travel to South Dakota to sell items like fruit, seafood, meat packages, paintings, magazine subscriptions, rugs, T-shirts, sunglasses, household cleaners, furniture, stuffed animals and asphalting and roofing services.  Asking the right questions when approached by those vendors can help you avoid making a purchase you may regret:

•         Question the salesperson about the product, warranties, guarantees, etc.

•         Get something in writing with the company’s name, address and phone number.

•         Ask to see their current South Dakota tax license.  State law requires everyone selling products or services to have a current South Dakota sales or contractors’ excise tax license. To verify if the license is valid, call the Department’s toll-free helpline at (800) 829-9188.

All sellers must provide you with a contract or receipt at the time of sale showing the date, the merchant’s name and address, and a statement informing you of your right to cancel the contract within three days.  After proper cancellation, the seller has 10 days to refund your money.

If you have doubts about the vendor or think you may have been the victim of a scam, call your local police department or county sheriff’s office immediately.  You can also contact the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Office at (800) 300-1986 or by email at consumerhelp@state.sd.us.  Be prepared to give as much information as you can about the vendor, including the name of the company and salesperson; company address and telephone number; and make, model and license number (if possible) of the vehicle the vendor was driving.  Without tips from the public, law enforcement officials may not be able to catch illegal vendors before they move on to the next community.

For more information on transient vendors, contact the South Dakota Department of Revenue’s toll-free helpline at (800) 829-9188, press “1” for the Business Tax Division.