Just a year ago, South Dakotans were responding to record flooding, and many people wondered when the water would go down. How quickly things change.
I recently attended the first meeting of the South Dakota Drought Task Force, a group I convened in response to an unprecedented string of hot, dry days and nights. A smaller group of representatives of state agencies has been meeting regularly for several weeks, monitoring the weather, following fire reports, and tracking forage and crop conditions. With drought conditions spreading across much of the state, we needed to formalize those meetings and add more players to the conversation.
Thirty-five South Dakota counties are listed as "severe" on the U.S. Drought Monitor. We've already had more than 300 wildfires this year. Most of the state has seen above-average temperatures for several weeks, and many areas have been without any significant precipitation for some time. Last month was the driest June in history for Vermillion, Yankton, and Sioux Falls.
Activating the Drought Task Force allows us to bring together all levels of government and all sources of information for direct communication. Our goal is to gather the best, most current data available and make sure South Dakotans have access to that information as quickly as possible.
Many of our citizens are under great stress from the drought, and many have questions. The Drought Task Force is the forum where citizens can ask those questions and get the best possible answers.
Each of us needs to do what we can to help our fellow South Dakotans. That's how we made it through last year's flooding, and that's how we'll get through this new test, together.
The website for the Governor's Drought Task Force: drought.sd.gov