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September rainstorm dampens early harvest plans in South Dakota

"We’re pretty wet. But not as bad as some areas south of us.” says Bridgewater farmer Charles Liesinger. Luke Hagen / Forum News Service

BRIDGEWATER, S.D. — A four-day September rainstorm rolled through southeastern South Dakota this week, putting a damper on the start of what may have been an early harvest season. As of 3 p.m. Thursday, Mitchell received a total of 4.69 inches of rain since Monday, according to the National Weather Service in Sioux Falls. That includes a daily record for Sept. 19 of 2.12 inches, which fell Wednesday. Mitchell's previous Sept. 19 rainfall record was 1.6 inches.

Charles Liesinger laughed when asked when he'll get back in the field to harvest.

Wearing rubber muck boots, the 28-year-old Bridgewater farmer was working in his grandpa's shop Thursday morning, Sept. 20, as water steadily flowed in ditches throughout the region.

"Who knows? It's hard to say," he said. "We're pretty wet. But not as bad as some areas south of us."

Liesinger estimated 5 inches of rain fell north of Bridgewater since Monday, with most of that precipitation coming Wednesday night into Thursday morning. He said he's already been in the fields cutting silage, but he hasn't been combining yet, though some of the corn is almost ready.

According to the National Agriculture Statistic Service, 44 percent of the state's corn is mature. That's well ahead of 23 percent average at this point.

"The price is so bad, I don't know if this rain makes it any more depressing," Liesinger said, referring to sub-$3 per bushel corn. "It's a good crop, but it's hard to get motivated with the prices."

The area hit hardest by the rainstorm was eastern Hutchinson County, south to the Nebraska border and farther east into Minnesota.

Mike Sayler, location manager at Fremar Farmers Co-op elevator, said the area about five miles south of Freeman saw about 7 to 8 inches of rain. He said there's a lot of water standing in fields, rural roads are underwater and it will be at least a week before anyone is able to start combining again.

Mike Gillispie, hydrologist for NWS, said one stretch along the Hutchinson-Bon Homme county line saw about 10 inches of rain since Monday.

That's caused flooding to the James River at the Scotland measuring location, which has risen about 7 feet since Wednesday afternoon. It's expected to reach 15.3 feet, forecasters say, which would put it nearly into major flooding levels.

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