Hail storm pummels the Black Hills; more severe weather expected Saturday
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HAILSTORM pummels the Black Hills

Hail storm pummels the Black Hills; more severe weather expected Saturday

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The bruised and battered Black Hills were cleaning up after Thursday’s hail and thunderstorms while bracing for more this weekend.

Thursday evening storm’s brought winds of more than 70 miles per hour and hail that damaged businesses, homes and vehicles and hurt livestock. The Weather Channel broadcast an image of a snowplow at Rapid City Regional Airport clearing hail off the runway Thursday night.

“We had quite a few places report tennis ball- or baseball-sized hail. There’s a big storm that came out of southeast Montana and through the Black Hills. It followed I-90 and a lot of people live along that stretch. A lot of people were affected,” Greg Richards, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service’s Rapid City office, said Friday.

While some thunderstorms were forecast for Friday afternoon and evening, Richards said another severe storm system will hit the state on Saturday afternoon and evening. The National Weather Service indicated flash flooding, hail 2 or more inches in size and winds above 70 miles per hour could occur.

“The big day is going to be Saturday. It’s got a pretty big setup for more widespread severe storms with large hail, damaging winds and heavy rain, starting early afternoon into the evening,” Richards said. "We’ll have pretty active weather patterns through the rest of the weekend and into next week.”

Tornadoes could be possible on Saturday, he said, particularly from the Black Hills into eastern Wyoming.

“We’re not expecting a big breakout, but the storms could have tornadoes with them,” Richards said.

Saturday’s storms could potentially affect South Dakota from Rapid City up to the northwestern region of the state, Richards said. Scattered thunderstorms could occur daily into next week.

“It is June and that’s a pretty busy time for thunderstorms,” he said.

Richards urged caution and the importance of watching for storm warnings and updates on TV, radio, newspaper websites, phone apps and social media.

“Big hail can kill people if you get hit by baseball-sized hail. People need to have a plan of where to go to protect themselves from hail and lightning,” Richards said. “Even if areas don’t get severe storms, lightning and wind are hazardous. … If you see a thunderstorm approaching, tune in to TV or radio to see if it’s severe and have a plan of where you’re going to seek shelter.”

Richards said the largest hail is not always the most damaging. Smaller hail, when blowing sideways in strong wind, can go through windows.

Businesses, homes and vehicles throughout the Black Hills were cleaning up and making repairs Friday after Thursday’s widespread hail damage. The National Weather Service reported strong winds caused structure damage near Spearfish and Ellsworth Air Force Base.

Though a store manager said he couldn’t officially comment, videos posted on Facebook on Thursday night showed debris and water inside Sam’s Club after hail apparently shattered all the store’s skylights. By Friday, the skylights had been covered and the store was open and busy.

Along Mall Drive, all the Denny Menholt car dealerships were hit.

“We did have building damage at our three Denny Menholt stores, but we were able to clean it up last night. It happened right at our normal closing time, so it didn’t affect our business hours. We are open and operating normally. We took as many of our vehicles inside as we could during the storm, but some of them were damaged at all three stores. Toyota was able to get all its new vehicles in, so no new vehicles were damaged at Toyota,” said Krista Morrison, director of marketing and communications for the Denny Menholt Auto Group stores in Rapid City.

The city of Rapid City was cleaning up on Friday but reported minimal damage, said Darrell Shoemaker, communications coordinator.

“Every time we have a storm like this, we have localized flooding in low-lying areas. The water was flowing pretty good so the street department will be working with street sweepers to clear gravel buildups, but there’s nothing major, no particular issues with roads,” Shoemaker said. “There were downed leaves in areas of the city but no major damage, no big tree limbs down.”

The parks department said some recently planted flowers in Sioux Park may need to be replaced, Shoemaker said.

Meanwhile, the region’s windshield and auto glass repair shops were flooded with customers.

Vehicle damage was extensive in parts of the Black Hills.

“Spearfish looks like a war zone,” said Tom Schnieder, owner of Black Hills Windshield Repair/The Crack Team. “All over town it’s pretty crazy.”

On Friday, Schnieder said he was trying to replace as many windshields as he could before more storm damage occurs over the weekend. One he was fixing was so badly broken it looked like a meteor hit it, he said. 

“Every other vehicle (in Rapid City) has a broken windshield. … The phone’s been ringing off the hook,” said General Manager Ken Shoun of ABRA Auto Body & Glass. “Everybody’s sense of humor is very good. What else can you do but laugh about it the way the world has been?”

ABRA staff were scheduling estimates on Friday and crash wrapping damaged vehicles with plastic sheeting to protect them from moisture. Shoun cautioned those with vehicle damage against getting quick, immediate and potentially inaccurate estimates for repairs.

“What people really need to do is be patient with the people that need to write estimates on their damage. We can’t do it all at once,” Shoun said. “We schedule so our estimators can plan to be as accurate as they can.”

Rain and hail left gardens and animals worse for wear, too. Hills Roost Farm outside Rapid City was advertising “hail-pelted organic rhubarb” for sale on Friday. Near Summerset, Holly Downs-Snyder said her property suffered multiple types of damage. She managed to get some of her animals into shelter, but some sustained minor injuries.

“Cars took a beating, cracked windshield, bruised livestock and horses … tree limb mess, garden pounded,” she said. “People always think about vehicles and buildings but lots of ranchers and hobby farm places have livestock that don’t always think to get where they should.”

Thursday’s storms also sparked spam calls and texts offering roof inspections and vehicle repairs. Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg, the Division of Consumer Protection, and the South Dakota Department of Revenue cautioned consumers to be wary of transient vendors.

“Make sure vendors are legitimate before doing business with them by asking for proof of a South Dakota business tax license. A majority of these contractors are legitimate, but there is always a handful seeking to take advantage of the current situation," Ravnsborg said in a statement at consumer.sd.gov.

More information about how home and vehicle owners can protect themselves and their property from potential scammers is posted at consumer.sd.gov/consumeralerts/transientvendors.aspx

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