For now at least, it feels like spring in Brookings

Temps hit 55 degrees on Wednesday and locals flocked outside

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BROOKINGS — January and February are supposed to be cold, right? And they usually are. But now? Well, it reached at least 55 degrees in Brookings — above zero, folks, by the way — on Wednesday afternoon.

You can thank a strong ridge that’s hanging out over the central U.S. for our current spate of very spring-like weather.

“It’s mainly the weather pattern that we’ve been in the past couple days,” National Weather Service meteorologist Samantha Trellinger told the Brookings Register on Wednesday. “When that happens, we get winds more out of the south/southwest and that really helps get these warmer temperatures we’ve been seeing.

Trellinger, who is based in Sioux Falls, added that, “All this extra sunshine has been helping the snowpack melt, and that’s also helping to warm up the ground and then the air temperatures as well.”

The weather has been a hit with most Brookings-area residents as well, with a couple, including Kassi Erickson of Brookings, even going so far as to open her vehicle’s sunroof.

“My kids made me open the sunroof on the way to school this morning,” she said, laughing, in a Wednesday afternoon post on the Register’s Facebook page.

“I’ve been able to walk about the last three days,” Tammy Nugent, formerly of Brookings and now of Sioux Falls, chimed in.

Another resident was also digging the extra rays. “Enjoying the extra vitamin D … just taking every chance to be outside with my face to the sun, smilin’ away,” Brookings business owner Jen Conners wrote, also on Facebook.

All that said, there was a bit of disappointment from a person or two with spring in January.

“Our family is actually a little sad,” Kate Farmen, who lives just south of Brookings, wrote. “We want to use our backyard ice skating rink, but the ice keeps melting.”

So, the big question is, will it continue? You betcha! (Oh, and sorry, Kate.)

Trellinger said the pleasant conditions are expected to last much of the upcoming week, with a slight cooldown arriving by Friday with some chances for rain — although it’s not looking like a lot in terms of accumulation. Otherwise, highs are expected to remain in the mid-40s and even into the lower 50s the next week or so.

Still, as nice as it is, there’s always a concern that things can be too nice, especially if nice means dry, and farmers’ planting season is looming on the horizon.

Trellinger said soil moisture levels in the Brookings area are currently near or slightly below normal for the year.

 However, at the end of last year, moisture levels were below normal, so the area is kind of starting out with a moisture deficit.

She noted that the latest drought monitor has categorized the Brookings area as being in a moderate drought.

“If we do stay dry, that’s going to continue to cause problems that we’ve seen in the past couple of years where we’ve had ongoing drought issues,” Trellinger said. “That could certainly impact river levels and agricultural food production as well.”

The forecasts hold some hope for moisture in and around Brookings.

“As of right now, the latest six-to-10 day and eight-to-14 day outlook favor above-normal precipitation,” Trellinger said. “If that were to occur, and we were to get a little bit more rain and moisture, that certainly would help those soils out.”

In closing, and in consideration January’s warmth, Trellinger did point out some other things people should be aware of.

“With all of this warmth, we will have rapid melt of the snowpack that is lingering out there, so we’ve been trying to push people to take some proactive measures and having extra room for all this water to go,” she noted.

“We’re letting people know to clear your neighborhood storm drains, check the downspouts around your house, clear your foundation and check your sump pump.”

She continued, “Since we are so dry, there’s not really any concerns with our river levels — there should be enough that they can catch all this extra runoff.”

“With it being so warm — and, well, we have had somewhat of a slow start to winter compared to at least last year — if you haven’t already done some winter preparations for your house and your car or anything else that you’re maybe behind with, now would be a good time to take advantage of the warmer days we do have,” she concluded.

— Contact Mondell Keck at mkeck@brookingsregister.com.