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Dusty Storms Stampede Through Northern Plains With 100 MPH Winds

An “inland hurricane” stampeded across South Dakota, calling to mind the 1930s Dust Bowl era.

Furious winds roared across the U.S. plains May 12 with wind gusts over 100 miles per hour tearing across states from Kansas to South Dakota to Wisconsin. Power lines and trees were toppled, walls of dust kicked up and even some semi-trucks rolled.

The extreme weather event has been declared a Derecho, a long-lived thunderstorm complex that is sometimes also called an “inland hurricane” due to the extensive wind damage that often occurs. According to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center, there were 55 significant, hurricane-force wind gusts. “[Thursday was] the day with the 2nd most preliminary hurricane force wind gusts since at least 2004,” the center said on Twitter.

“It was very forceful, very dark, it was very quiet up until the wind hit. Almost instantaneously, tree branches, and roof shingles and stuff started coming off structures,” Trevor Keating, the Arlington, S.D., fire chief, told AccuWeather meteorologist Tony Laubach in an interview.

One fatality was reported near Blomkest, Minn., about 85 miles west of Minneapolis, after winds toppled a grain bin onto a car, according to a report from the storm prediction center.

In Garfield County, Neb., near Burwell, the wind knocked about a 15-by-15-foot horse barn on the west side of town, and a roof was blown off the grandstand at the fairgrounds. About 25 trees were reportedly uprooted, according to the center.

Brookings, S.D., was especially hard hit by the storms and wind. The Brookings Health System reported a surge of injuries following the storm, and several buildings were demolished due to the destructive wind gusts.

Brookings Co. emergency manager Bob Hill says damage is county wide, including a couple demolished buildings in city of Brookings as well as a church that lost its roof. https://t.co/iciq8g0Veb

— Joe Sneve (@Argus_Joe) May 13, 2022

Hundreds of storm reports came in as the evening progressed, noting everything from hailstones with a diameter of two inches in Kansas, Wisconsin and Minnesota to a potential tornado damaging two houses and the side of a school in Castlewood, S.D., and wind reports that frequently surpassed 80 mph.

One wind gust in Hutchinson County, located in the southeastern portion of South Dakota, reached 107 mph outside of Tripp around 4:25 p.m. local time, according to the National Weather Service.

AccuWeather forecasters had previously warned that wind gusts of 70-90 mph were possible with the strongest storms, with an AccuWeather Local StormMax™ of 110 mph.

As the storms continued to develop, thousands of customers in South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin were experiencing power outages Thursday, according to PowerOutage.US. By Friday morning, outages in Minnesota topped 53,000 while 21,000 were in the dark across South Dakota.

Around 8:41 p.m., local time Thursday, extreme meteorologist Reed Timmer, who was focusing on the storms in South Dakota,, reported that I-29 was closed south of Watertown due to numerous semi-trucks that had been blown over.

The wind from the storms also kicked up plumes of dust near Sioux Falls.

Dust so thick in the air you can taste it, and it’s blown into every crack in the house,” the National Weather Service Sioux Falls lead meteorologist Matthew Dux said on Twitter Thursday afternoon.

The recent dust storm in South Dakota brought to mind scenes like this from the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. (U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr)

“Extra traffic is making things difficult and causing more problems,” the Sioux Falls Fire Rescue service tweeted, adding a request for people to stay home and not drive around simply to view the damage.

The system was the latest in a multiday severe weather outbreak across the region, including Minnesota where one person died in a crash and at least three others were wounded. Meteorologist Martha Lilian Llanos Rodríguez, 30, of Mexico City, Mexico, was killed in a three-vehicle crash on Interstate 90 in southwestern Minnesota Wednesday evening, the Minnesota State Police said.

Llanos Rodriguez was in the area chronicling the storms, according to her Twitter account.

Produced in association with AccuWeather.

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