It’s starting to look a bit like Christmas

It's starting to look a bit like Christmas James Rahm, president of the Alpha Tau Omega fraternity in Vermillion, was out early Wednesday morning clearing the sidewalks around the frat house from snow. He said the job was made easier because temperatures stayed warm and the snow didn't freeze to the sidewalks. by David Lias Residents of Clay County finally received a brief visit from Old Man Winter Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.

Big, wet snowflakes began falling in Vermillion at approximately 5 p.m. Tuesday.

As of Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls hadn�t received any official precipitation reports from Vermillion�s observer.

But based on reports received from nearby community, the staff at the weather service estimated that Vermillion probably received between 1.5 and 2 inches of snow.

The storm system that brought Vermillion its snow began moving across the Northern Plains Tuesday afternoon. According to the National Weather Service, much of the snow that fell in southeastern South Dakota Tuesday afternoon melted soon after it hit the ground.

The mild winter storm system dropped a bit more snow on northwestern Iowa � about 2 to 3 inches. The National Weather Service reported that the snowfall began to end in the Vermillion area around 4 a.m. Wednesday. Snow fell on Sioux City, IA until about 6 a.m.

The white stuff was still coming down Wednesday morning in southwestern and south central Minnesota in Murray and Nobles counties. It was expected to end there at approximately noon Wednesday.

In Centerville, located about 25 miles north of Vermillion, 1.5 inches of snow was recorded. To Vermillion�s west, Yankton received about 2 inches.

Many Vermillion residents were doing something Wednesday morning that they haven�t had to do for more than a year now. Homeowners awoke to discover that enough snow remained on sidewalks and driveways to justify firing up their snowblowers. Many opted to clear a path in the snow the old fashioned way � with a shovel.

Just two weeks ago, the National Weather Service noted that Sioux Falls was experiencing its driest fall on record since 1889. Although no precipitation figures were available for Vermillion Wednesday, that trend, weather observers noted, likely holds true for this area, too.

Don Morin, the day program manager for climatological data at the National Weather Service office in Sioux Falls, said the last measurable bit of precipitation received by Vermillion before Tuesday night was .45 of rain and snow that fell Nov. 23.

�In one other instance in November, just a trace amount fell,� he added. �It wasn�t enough to measure. It seems that our precipitation events lately have been about a month apart.�

The climate has been anything but seasonal. Temperatures have climbed to the 50

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degree range at times in late November and early December.

And South Dakota has been unusually arid during the latter part of 1999.

�But I really don�t think this is a strange event,� Morin said. �Weather patterns are cyclic, and we�re probably going through the dry period of the cycle.�

He noted that the 1980s also had times that seemed unusually dry.

�If you go back to the 1930s, the weather was a bit more unpredictable in South Dakota,� Morin said. �The state had summers (during that decade) that were very dry, but many of those summers were followed by winters that were very bad.

�In the big picture,� he added, �to me it doesn�t really seem unusual to have a period of weather like this.�

The long range forecast for southeastern South Dakota doesn�t include any major winter storms. That doesn�t mean, Morin said, that Vermillion will be robbed of a traditional white Christmas.

�The odds of having a brown Christmas in this part of the country are actually very low,� he said. �There�s always just a little bit of snow, if nothing else.�

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