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Water stands in the corner of a field and in the ditch at the intersection of Highway 22 and Highway 21 south of New England on Friday afternoon.

May rainfall nearly tops all-time record

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The Dickinson Press
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Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

May's mounting inches of rain may have caused numerous problems for west-central and western North Dakota residents, but some say the positives of the springtime precipitation outweigh the negatives.

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As flooding of the Little Knife River dominated conversation Friday in the Morton County town of Hebron, calling for sandbagging efforts and the temporary declaration of a voluntary evacuation, others to the west had to deal with flooded basements and crawl spaces and farmers battled wet fields.

While Dickinson officially came close to setting a record for the amount of rain it received last month, Hettinger, Bowman, Dunn Center and Killdeer all set new marks for the month, said forecaster Patrick Ayd of the National Weather Service in Bismarck.

Dickinson came within less than an inch of matching the May record of 7.11 inches, set in 1906, while Bowman (10.61 inches), Hettinger (7.93 inches) and Killdeer (9.15 inches) all blew past previous high marks by at least 2 inches each. Although official numbers were not available, City of Richardton maintenance worker Steve Wieser said Friday that a number of residents of the Stark County town were combating unwelcomed water in the lower levels of their homes.

Several people said on The Dickinson Press Facebook page on Saturday that they were having to deal with wet basements, with a number mentioning the use of pumps to aid the effort.

At Newby's Ace Hardware in Dickinson, sump pumps have been flying off the shelves of late.

"We don't even have any on the shelf right now," said Newby's employee Brooklyn Kadrmas. "We've had people coming in to buy them ever since the rain started. We've been selling four or five every day lately."

Bowman County Commissioner Bill Bowman said he's heard of many homes that have had water in their basements in recent days and weeks, but he sees the positives of recent rains as outweighing any negatives.

"I thank the good Lord every night for the rains we've had," Bowman said. "I have a gauge right out in my yard and on the May 30 and May 31, we had right up to 4 inches. We've had almost a foot of rain (in May). Believe me, it was really, really needed. It was so dry here last year and it doesn't even look like the same country right now. It was nice, gentle rain for the most part and it soaked in well."

With another hot and likely dry western North Dakota summer right around the corner, Bowman said the May rains will prove to be a boon in terms of accumulated subsurface moisture.

"I think sub-moisture is somewhere around 5 or 6 feet deep in this area, and that's fantastic for the people who have grass and hay," Bowman said. "We've been through Julys where we've had basically no rain and its 100 degrees. If you have a good root system on your grains and you have that warm weather, it's not going to hurt nearly as bad as if you have dry roots."

Arthur Ridel, who farms corn, wheat and sunflowers in both Stark and Dunn counties, said the wet spring has been detrimental at times, but isn't nearly as bad as it could be.

"The rain has slowed us down, but I'm sure not going to complain," Ridel said. "Before it started, it was beginning to be almost too dry. It's been a challenge because we had that April snowstorm, which put us back, and then the recent rain has set us back two weeks. But this was welcome rain because now we have some subsoil moisture to work with."

Ridel said most of his corn and wheat is already planted and said as long as his sunflowers are planted by mid-June, they should be fine. Because of malfunctioning equipment at Theodore Roosevelt Regional Airport, several days of potential rainfall from May 25-28 were not recorded, according to the NWS.

Because of that fact, the official NWS rain total for last month in Dickinson will be recorded as 6.03 inches, though the actual total likely approached or surpassed the all-time record set in 1906.

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Bryan Horwath
A Wisconsin native, Horwath has been covering news in the Oil Patch of North Dakota since 2012. Horwath currently serves as the senior agriculture and political reporter for The Dickinson Press and, despite the team's tendency to always let him down, remains a diehard Minnesota Vikings fan.
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