Rain falls at a record rate

It's wet out.

Which sets up this rhetorical question: "How wet is it?"

Really, really wet.

Vermillion has never experienced a drenching like it received just last month. According to the National Weather Service, Vermillion received 11.99 inches of rain during the month of July alone.

The High Plains Regional Climatic Center, which keeps track of weather-related data in the Midwest, notes that last month in Colorado, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota, seven collection points received record-breaking precipitation in July: Arthur, NE, which received 7.45 inches; Marion, located north of Vermillion in Turner County, which collected 12.74 inches; Trinidad Perry Stokes, CO, which received 6.84 inches of precip; Wessington Springs, which had to deal with 10.78 inches in July; Yankton, which received 10.21 inches last month, Dodge City, KS, which measured 8.4 inches of rain; and Vermillion.

The old precip record for Vermillion stood for quite awhile. It was set in July 1907, when the community measured 9.63 inches that month.

Local people easily may think their minds, or at least their memories, are playing tricks on them. July typically is remembered as bringing the brunt of summer weather to the region, with warm temperatures and dry conditions.

According to National Weather Service data, between 1971 and 2000, the average amount of rain that fell on Vermillion in July was 3.4 inches.

Last July, Vermillion received nearly four times that amount. The community was destined, it seemed, to receive a somewhat normal amount of rainfall last month. As of July 21, only 1.98 inches of precipitation had been recorded here.

Then the onslaught began. On July 22, 3.6 inches of rain fell.

Smaller, more typical rains followed. The city received about a third of an inch of rain on July 26, and nearly three-fourths of an inch on July 28.

That was followed by 3.0 inches on July 29, and 2.30 inches on July 30. In other words, according to National Weather Service records, about 7 inches of rain, give or take a tenth-of-an-inch, fell on Vermillion during the last 10 days of July.

Other communities in the region have seen their fair share of wet weather, too.

In the last two months, Yankton has received 16.90 inches of rain according to the National Weather Service, which is a record for the two months. The yearly average as of Aug. 2 is 15.40 inches.

Wakefield, NE, which is 70 miles southeast of Yankton, had its wettest two months of the summer in history with a total of 16.95 inches.

Tyndall recorded its second wettest June and July with 15.61 inches of rain, and Menno has received 14.27 inches.

"This is very abnormal; the rain usually doesn't pile up like it has in the last two months," said Kyle Weisser of the NWS.

Weisser said some areas in South Dakota have gotten its yearly average in the last two months.

"Yankton, Sioux Falls and Sioux City's average is 22 to 27 inches, so a lot of sites are already over their yearly average," he said. "I know a couple parts of Sioux Falls had 22 inches since June 1, meaning that they have had their highest annual rainfall in the last 60 days."

The last seven months have reversed the drought of the last two years. In 2009, Yankton had a total precipitation of 21.03 inches, and in 2008 the total was 17.83 inches.

Weisser added that the NWS knows why it's raining more than usual.

"There is a pattern that has been drawn up with westerly winds that have been created by the way the jet stream runs right now, which had given us a better chance at low pressure systems like we have received," he said.

However, Weisser said there is no explanation of why the jet stream has set up the way it has.

"It's just the luck of the draw," he said. "Sometimes there are different oscillations such as El Nino or La Nina, and new research is being worked on for predicting wet summers and when they will happen. But right now, there is no answer to how they lock in the way they do."

Yankton Media, Inc. staff writer Justin Rust contributed to this report.

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