High wind speeds, dry land causes for concern across South Dakota; local fire closes portion of Interstate-90
Wed, 03/31/2021 - 9:48am admin
By Desmond Bad Wound
The entire state of South Dakota was issued a rare "Extreme Grassland Fire Danger" by the National Weather Service on Monday, March 29. Three notable Black Hills fires carried the headlines throughout Monday afternoon and a local grassland fire temporarily closed a portion of Interstate-90.
The largest wildfire, with approved FEMA funding already underway to help fight it, hit Rapid City yesterday.
The "Schroeder Fire," is one of many fires to strike South Dakota on Monday. While the wildfire is human-caused and currently being investigated, high wind speeds and record low moisture levels are the main cause for it spreading quickly. Wind speeds of 80 miles per hour were reported in the Rapid City area.
As of 10 am on Tuesday, March 30 the Mount Rushmore National Memorial issued a closure of the park due to a wildfire, dubbed the "244 Fire," and a date has currently not been set for reopening due to current expected weather conditions throughout the weekend. Wind gusts reaching 50 miles per hour were recorded by the memorial's weather station on Monday.
Locally, the South Dakota Department of Transportation alerted Interstate-90 travelers that a grassfire, "Dry Creek/6 Fire" closed SD-73 South- Kadoka Exit 150 to US 83 South- Murdo Exit 192. The closure was officially issued at 2:11 p.m. MDT and later lifted a little over three hours later at 5:15 p.m. MDT. Further closures included SD-63 South- Belvidere Exit 163 to Okatan-Exit 183.
Surrounding counties including Mellette, Todd, Trip, and Pine Ridge/Rosebud reservation tribal lands were issued a High Wind Warning early Monday morning by the Rapid City National Weather Service (RCNWS). The warning stated that "high winds may blow down large trees and damage roofs, small outbuilding, and signs. Power outages are possible. Travel could be difficult, especially for high-profile vehicles. Strong winds can cause blowing dust, reduced visibility, and flying debris."
A Red Flag Warning was also issued by the RCNWS for Haakon County. The warning states "critical fire weather conditions are either occurring now or will shortly. A combination of strong winds, low relative humidity, and warm temperatures can contribute to extreme fire behavior."
Being prepared and taking action
With this week's fire happenings, it is not a bad idea to be prepared if a wildfire should come close to your home. The following are provided by the National Weather Service.
A good idea is to stop the fire's "fuel", by removing brush surrounding your home. Have a basic emergency supply kit; make sure that your flashlights, generator, etc., are in working condition. Have a plan of action before the fire comes and have a sit-down about escape-routes, where the emergency kit will be located, who does what, and keep updated by downloading any local weather news apps. Listen to local officials when you are told to evacuate, your life is worth far more than your home.
If you are ordered to do so, follow your plan, evacuate, and listen to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio for updates until local officials say it is safe to return. Remember to utilize our state's website for road information, https://sd511.org, or dial 511 when traveling or planning to travel.
When you are told it is safe to go home, stay in the vehicle and remember to look for any downed lines, structurally weak areas, and look for gas leaks outside first. Leave immediately if these are seen. If the outside of your home looks okay, use your flashlights to look for any damage inside including smoke, gas leak smells, or flames. Turn on your flashlight before you enter any enclosed area! Even the battery inside your flashlight can produce sparks that could interact with leaking gas and cause an explosion.
In areas that have no power during weather storms, one of the leading causes of death is carbon monoxide poisoning. Do not use a portable generator inside any enclosed area such as your home, garage, barn, etc. It is a great idea to change the batteries on your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors every year. You never know with South Dakota weather what may be coming!
If you are not ordered to evacuate, remember there are ways to help your local firefighters and emergency personnel. These include filling up your vehicle in case you do have to evacuate, putting away flammable items, not throwing your cigarettes out the window, and not lighting any fires that could distract or hinder our emergency personnel. Try not to light any candles that could knock over in your home until the local weather advisory deems the area safe of fire-starting conditions. These conditions can last a while. as is the case in our surrounding area.
As of Tuesday at 11 am, The National Weather Service has said that "elevated fire danger" is possible throughout the weekend for south-central South Dakota. Stay up-to-date with local weather, police department, government’s social media pages, websites and radio stations.