Western South Dakota and the Black Hills region is in the midst of a record-setting drought, reports the Rapid City Journal. Area ranchers are already seeing the effects of this dry spell in their hay fields, which are yielding a fraction of what they have in past years. Many ranchers are choosing not to hay at all due to the dry conditions and shortage of grass.
This spring, several Black Hills counties were listed as “abnormally dry” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, including Custer, Fall River, Lawrence, Meade, and western Pennington counties. Now nearly all of western South Dakota is receiving little to no precipitation, and Lawrence, Meade, and Pennington counties all show signs of severe drought. The drought is expected to continue throughout the summer and into fall, according to the National Weather Service, with no large amount of rain expected.
These dry conditions have fed heavily into high fire danger in the area, and what thunderstorms do come through the region carry the risk of lightning fires. Evidence of this can be seen burning currently on Crow Peak, near Spearfish.