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Sioux Falls Boiled Under Record-Breaking in 1988

In the summer of 1988 Sioux Falls melted under a record-breaking heatwave. From North Dakota south through Kansas and east across the Midwest, the middle part of June 1988 was egg frying on the sidewalk hot. In fact, nearly every state in the country had temperatures in the 90’s and above.

According to a United Press International report from the time, the heat was so strong that roads were buckling, some towns were rationing water, and swimming pools were to hot to offer relief.

Heat Wave
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Sioux Falls reached a high temperature of 110 degrees on June, 21, 1988 as part of a run of several days past the century mark. That 110 degrees tied the all-time hottest temperature recorded in Sioux Falls. The first recorded occurrence was July 17, 1936, during the dust bowl years.

Other towns in that area set heat records on June 21:

  • 109 in Huron
  • 108 in Aberdeen
  • 108 in Sioux City
  • 106 in Lincoln, Nebraska
  • 105 in Bismark, North Dakota

The June 1988 heat wave was part of a devastating drought that savaged the country that year. The Weather Channel describes it as “…the worst in the Midwest since the ‘Dust Bowl’ years in the mid-1930s. Damage and costs related to the drought amounted to $40 billion, and there were over 5,000 related fatalities, including heat stress-related.”

It was so bad that barge traffic on the Mississippi River had to stop for while because the river was too low. Less than a half-inch of rain fell in Minneapolis that June, when their average rainfall for the month is over four inches.

The drought was felt all over the central US in 1988. Many places started June already in bad shape having received less than 50% of normal precipitation. The drought peaked in mid-July. By the end, 45% of the country dealt with drought conditions.

Sources: The Weather Channel, UPI, National Weather Service


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