2022 derecho caused $2.8 billion in damage

January 17, 2023

Crews are still working to clean up damage months after the May 2022 derecho, which swept a roughly 100-mile-wide wall of dust and winds over 100 mph across South Dakota.

Mackenzie Huber with South Dakota Searchlight (southdakotasearchlight.com) reports the derecho damage has a multi-state price tag of $2.8 billion, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information’s newly updated list of billion-dollar disaster events.

High winds struck South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota and Wisconsin, with 13 tornadoes impacting eastern South Dakota and 21 across Minnesota, Iowa and North Dakota.

“The winds were widespread and significant enough there was almost not a site that wasn’t damaged across most of southeastern South Dakota,” National Weather Service Meteorologist Jeff Chapman said, adding that there was more widespread damage after the storm than he’d ever seen.

The cost of public assistance in South Dakota from FEMA is listed at $2.4 million.

The storm caused damage in 28 counties and killed two people, one in Lake County and another in Minnehaha County.

An illustration from the NOAA shows the approxiimate location for each of the 18 separate billion-dollar weather and climate disasters that impacted the United States in 2022.
18 billion-dollar weather and climate disasters impacted the United States in 2022, include the May derecho in South Dakota. (Courtesy of NOAA)

Castlewood, home of Gov. Kristi Noem, was hit by a tornado with 120 mph winds that ripped part of the roof off its school building, damaging the elementary wing and its small gym, kitchen, band room and lunch room along with the school’s weight room and locker rooms.

Mobile units shipped in from Texas, costing $984,938, were erected in November to house about 127 pre-K through fourth graders, said Tracy Laue, administrative assistant for the district.

According to minutes from the Dec. 14, 2022, Castlewood School District Board of Education meeting, a public survey found that the majority of respondents would support a $6 million bond to repair and reconstruct damaged parts of the school. The district will work with an architecture firm on plans before an election is held on the issue later this year.

There was no mention of the status of insurance covering the damage from the tornado to the school. However, the school board established a tornado capital projects fund in July which has grown to $9.65 million.

Other parts of the state are also still fixing damage from the May storm, including local governments, private property owners and state departments.

The state Department of Transportation had about 170 signs on state highways and at least 10 interstate signs that were damaged from the storm. A traffic signal pole in Huron was rotated 90 degrees — footings and all — by the storm. The most significant damage to the state DOT was to salt sheds in Menno, Tyndall and Madison, according to Christina Bennett, a construction and maintenance engineer.

“Most of the work is completed except notably the signs on I-90 and I-229, as that work requires plans to be put out to bid for a contractor to replace,” Bennett said in an emailed statement.

The sign replacements were planned to be done by the end of 2022, but material delays and the onset of winter delayed the work until spring 2023, Bennett said. A sign and guardrail replacement near exit 1 on I-229 in Sioux Falls won’t begin construction until fall 2023 or summer 2024.

South Dakota was part of four billion-dollar weather events in 2022, including the May derecho, and the blizzards and arctic blast in December 2022, which resulted in nine deaths on the Rosebud Reservation. The official price tag of the December storms has not been calculated yet, though it is included on the list.

The two other events were severe weather and drought that included the South Dakota area but weren’t as damaging as they were for other states.