Weather is Challenging

Written by Terry Liddick
Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Terry LiddickIt’s the 9th of May and after daily struggles with weather, we finally finished South Dakota and moved up to Jamestown, ND. We were planning an early start this year—the first time the survey would have ever started in April. However, as kind as Mother Nature was over the winter and early spring, she started providing some much needed rain in April, and so far, May too. The first day of the survey was supposed to be 29 April. We were delayed by weather and finally flew the first day on 1 May, albeit only 1 segment (18 miles) before rain and low ceilings along with rapidly increasing winds forced an early return to Mitchell. We were able to fly again the next day, but were unable to fly the eastern-most 2 segments on the two most southern lines when once again, we ran into a wall of fog and low ceilings.

On May 3rd we attempted to fly some air/ground segments first thing in the AM to keep the ground crew moving, but again were unable to fly east over the prairie coteau. So flying circles for a bit while refilling a flight plan in the air, we headed west where the weather was a little better. By the time we made it back east from Pierre, we were able to get over the coteau and get the air/ground segments done and keep the ground crew moving forward. May 4th dawned with a chance to finally finish the 4 segments in the southeast corner of the state. We made it back to Mitchell just before they got hit by a thunderstorm that dumped about 2.5 inches of rain in a few short hours. After waiting out this storm for 4 1/2 hours, I was able to depart and catch up with Dave, who drove up to Aberdeen a few hours earlier.

We spent the first two days in Aberdeen watching the rain continue to fall. We flew May 7th and were able to complete a short morning before the winds began to howl. May 8th we were again thwarted by rain showers and low ceilings on two of the eastern segments over the coteau, but had good weather to the west, so were able to have a pretty productive day.

That brings us to today. We had our first pretty nice day to fly today and were able to get 2 lines flown and pick up the two segments we missed yesterday, as well as move up to Jamestown, ND. So much for an early start—it has been challenging so far to say the least!

Conditions are much different than last year. Southeast South Dakota was pretty dry, at least before all the rain started falling on the 4th. The Mitchell area received over 5 inches of rain in two days. Central and northeast South Dakota looked pretty good, but 2011 it is not! The landscape is much dryer than last year, but the recent rains will help. We are seeing lots of ducks, however. We have seen good numbers of pintails in the central part of the state, a lot of blue-winged teal, and mallard numbers are good as well. We should be able to fly again in the morning, but the ferry from Aberdeen, SD, to Jamestown, ND, revealed that southeast North Dakota is pretty dry. So we are about halfway done, South Dakota is behind us, stratum 48 and 49 are complete, and we are eager to see what lies ahead.