May’s weather has been miserably chilly and wet in Rapid City, but it has not been particularly historic — at least not yet.
As of midday Monday, downtown Rapid City was 0.18 inch below normal precipitation for the month. That was expected to change with 2 inches of snow predicted to begin falling overnight Monday and continue through today.
Alzina Foscato, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Rapid City, said the consistently dreary and wet conditions this month have kept the ground moist and made May seem wetter than it’s actually been.
“It’s kind of been a steady series of rains, but we haven’t seen too much heavy rain that would run off,” she said. “It’s just been light stuff that’s been able to soak into the ground.”
Another soaking is in progress. Light rain fell throughout much of the day Monday in Rapid City, and meteorologist Eric Helgeson, also of the NWS Rapid City office, said Rapid City could have the equivalent of about 3 inches of liquid precipitation after the rain and snow are done Wednesday morning.
Helgeson said there could be 3-4 inches of variation in snowfall amounts across areas as near to each other as 5 miles. Some places above 5,000 feet of elevation in the Black Hills could end up with a foot of snowfall, after some of those spots already received several inches of snow over the weekend.
“The higher you are, the better chance there is of a whole pile of snow on your grass,” Helgeson said.
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Those higher elevation areas were placed under a winter storm warning Monday that was expected to last through Wednesday morning, with a lull this afternoon. Rapid City and much of western South Dakota were placed under a flood watch that was expected to last through Wednesday night.
In Rapid City, the bike path at Cambell Street was closed Monday due to higher water in Rapid Creek. Other previously closed areas of the bike path remained closed, including beneath the Mount Rushmore Road and Canyon Lake Drive bridges, and a stretch near the 4-H building at the Central States Fairgrounds.
Helgeson does not expect much improvement in the weather anytime soon. Normal temperatures for May are around 67 degrees, but Helgeson said Rapid City will probably stay cooler than that through Memorial Day.
“The pattern we’re in doesn’t look like it will change significantly for at least the next week or two,” Helgeson said.
Foscato said this week’s weather and any further cold and wet weather through the end of May could push the month upward in historical rankings. She said this year’s January-to-May period is on track to rank among the 10 coldest and snowiest such periods in Rapid City history.
Late-May snowfall is unusual in Rapid City, Foscato said, but not unprecedented. She noted that Rapid City has had snow as late as June, including 3.2 inches on June 1-2, 1951, and 0.5 inch on June 13, 1969.