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Real Runners: Being “The Runner” In Rural South Dakota

Unfriendly Weather

It is also powerful land. Located directly in the center of the North American continent, South Dakota is subject to both warm air drifting north from the Gulf of Mexico and cold fronts blowing south from Canada. The meeting of these two frontiers can bring wind, hail and a general feeling of capriciousness. The fastest temperature change ever recorded occurred in Spearfish, S.D. in 1943 when frigid -4-degree temperatures rose to 45 degrees in less than two minutes. Fast changing weather has been known to crack glass, instantly frost windshields and bring hail (the state also holds the record for the largest hailstone ever recorded, an eight-inch–in diameter–and nearly two-pound ball that fell in the town of Vivian in 2010).

Winters in South Dakota are harsh. Famous pioneer and author Laura Ingalls Wilder chronicled her family’s years living in present-day De Smet, S.D. in her books The Long Winter, Little Town on the Prairie and These Happy Golden Years. In The Long Winter, Wilder describes tying a rope from her front door to the barn so the family could care for its livestock during a blizzard without losing their way in the blowing snow. More than a century later, a student at my school died trying to visit her neighbor’s house in similar conditions. She became disoriented and lost during the short walk, and her body was the found the next day.

Once I was six miles away from home when golfball-sized piece of hail cracked from the sky, bruising my arms and skull. Before I could dash for cover, one of my student’s grandmothers pulled over to ask if I needed a ride.

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