National Weather Service United States Department of Commerce

Overall a Tranquil Late September

Overall it's a tranquil late September with just a few hazards across the U.S. There may be locally heavy rain with possible flooding across the central Plains and from parts of Texas into the Lower Mississippi Valley. It will be warm with above normal temperatures from the Upper Mississippi Valley to the Ohio and Tennessee Valleys. A powerful storm will be located in the Bering Sea near Alaska. Read More >

On December 29, 1890, as many as 300 Lakota and 31 U.S. Army soldiers were killed at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.  As often the case in the area, weather conditions over southwestern South Dakota varied considerably during this time.

The weather office in Rapid City was under the U.S. Army Signal Corps and located in the original Sweeney Building on the southwest corner of Main and Seventh Streets.  Transcribed entries from the station record and daily weather summaries in this article provide details on the changing weather.

After a strong cold front crossed the area December 22, daytime temperatures were only in the 20s as the bands of Lakota started their journey from present-day Cherry Creek along the Cheyenne River toward Pine Ridge.  By Christmas Day, west to southwest winds warmed temperatures into the 40s, well above the normal highs of mid 30s.  Low temperatures dropped to 10 to 20 degrees under clear skies, and combined with 5 to 15 mph winds, created wind chill values of 5 below to 5 above zero. Toward the end of the month, low temperatures were in the 20s to lower 30s as the west winds continued through the night.

Dec 22:  Warm in morning with lower barometer and SW winds veering to N by 4:10 pm with falling temperature.  Order to hoist cold wave signal received 1:30 pm. Signal lowered at 8:30 pm. Considered justified. [A cold wave “alert” was issued by the central Signal Corps office in Washington, D.C., when temperatures were expected to fall at least 20 degrees in 24 hours to 32 degrees or colder; in this case, the observer considered it was justified as temperatures fell from a high of 45 degrees to a low of 20 degrees by the morning of December 23.]

High/low temperatures: 45/28; Maximum wind speed: 26 mph; Precipitation: 0.00

From the “Rapid City Daily Journal” Dec 23, 1890: Signal Officer Norrington yesterday was instructed to hoist the cold wave flag, as the mercury would fall within the next twenty-four hours twenty degrees at least. The flag had no sooner been hoisted than the mercury in the thermometer began to fall. It is about time that the Black Hills were visited by a little cold weather. From all parts of the east come reports of snow storms and cold weather, while here in the Hills so far the weather has been mild and spring like.

Dec 23:  Wind backed to SE by 1:30 pm.  Parties from the Hills report two to three inches of snow on the ground at Etta Mine [near Keystone]. Colder and cloudy weather.

High/low temperatures: 28/20; Maximum wind speed: 23 mph; Precipitation: 0.00

Dec 24:  Cloudy weather.  Lower temperature and rising barometer during day with N winds in morning veering to SE by 12 noon.

High/low temperatures: 23/10; Maximum wind speed: 13 mph; Precipitation: 0.00

Dec 25:  Warmer westerly winds in morning veering to east by 1:15 pm and SWesterly at night with lower barometer.

High/low temperatures: 45/12; Maximum wind speed: 12 mph; Precipitation: 0.00

Dec 26: High NW winds from 4:15 am to 2:15 pm.  Warm at 8 am followed by falling temperature and higher barometer.  Order to hoist cold wave signal received at 10:35 am; lowered 8:30 pm.  During the high wind the screw hold min thermometer 1501 became worn and jarred loose letting thermometer fall, breaking tube; replaced by no 781.  Colder, higher barometer. Weather cloudy and threatening at 8:15 pm at 9:30 pm cloudless.

High/low temperatures: 49/35; Maximum wind speed: 42 mph; Precipitation: 0.00

Dec 27: Mailed clippings from Journal and Republican of 23, 24 & 25 referring to heliograph work between this point and Gen Carr’s camp. Wiped battery, oiled anemometer. Slightly cooler.

High/low temperatures: 48/20; Maximum wind speed: 12 mph; Precipitation: 0.00

Dec 28:  Warmer and cloudless weather falling barometer west to south winds.

High/low temperatures: 56/24; Maximum wind speed: 25 mph; Precipitation: 0.00


On the morning of December 29, low temperatures ranged from 12 degrees at Hay Springs, NE to a balmy 30 degrees at Rapid City. Temperatures rose into the 60s under clear skies and west to southwest winds at 15 to 20 mph.

Dec 29:  Nearly stationary temperature, lower barometer westerly winds and nearly cloudless weather.

High/low temperatures: 66/30; Maximum wind speed: 19 mph; Precipitation: 0.00

Dec 30:  Stationary temperature, falling barometer light westerly winds and partly cloudy weather.

High/low temperatures: 57/30; Maximum wind speed: 14 mph; Precipitation: 0.00


A strong cold front moved through the area during the early morning of December 31 followed by snow and northwest winds 35 to 45 mph, causing blizzard conditions that delayed recovery operations at Wounded Knee.  Some stations reported light rain ahead of the front, which turned to light snow. Liquid precipitation was less than a third of an inch; snowfall ranged from 0.3 inches in Rapid City to 3 inches at Hay Springs, NE; however, strong winds likely prevented accurate measurement of the snow.  The observer at Fort Robinson, NE wrote in the remarks “Snow could not be measured on the level on 31st owing to its drifting”.

Dec 31:  Compared barometer Brisk NW winds sprang up at 7:15 am; light rain at 7:55 am changing into light snow at 8:05, rainfall too small to measure.  Order to send noon special received at 2:18 [75th Meridian Time, which is now Eastern Time], observation taken at 2:25 pm, filed 2:40 pm.  Snow ended at 1:20 pm; Amount unmelted snow .30  High NW winds from noon until 9 pm Falling temperature and higher barometer.  Cir letters dated 10th 15 (2) 6th & 10th have been received during the month.  Cir Nov 3, 1889 and S.O. No 42 are the latest received.  Total amount of snowfall during month 2.0

High/low temperatures: 38/23; Maximum wind speed: 34 mph; Precipitation: 0.02 inches; Snowfall: 0.3 inches

Jan 1:  Lower temperature, wind veered to east at night, partly cloudy during day, cloudless at night.

High/low temperatures: 32/12; Maximum wind speed: 32 mph; Precipitation: 0.00

Jan 2:  Generally cloudless weather, warmer and falling barometer.

High/low temperatures: 46/9; Maximum wind speed: 12 mph; Precipitation: 0.00

Jan 3:  Warmer, lower barometer, NW winds, cloudless weather.  No clippings. Wiped battery.

High/low temperatures: 45/17; Maximum wind speed: 14 mph; Precipitation: 0.00

Jan 4:  Lower temp[erature] and rising barometer west to north winds and cloudless weather.

High/low temperatures: 46/24; Maximum wind speed: 19 mph; Precipitation: 0.00

Jan 5:  Northerly winds in morning veering to east at 1:06 pm and to S in evening, warmer with falling barometer.

High/low temperatures: 45/13; Maximum wind speed: 24 mph; Precipitation: 0.00

Jan 6:  Signals not sent until 10:35 am. Line open east. Slightly higher barometer, nearly stationary temperature and cloudless weather.

High/low temperatures: 42/26; Maximum wind speed: 23 mph; Precipitation: 0.00

Jan 7:  Lt snow B[egan] & E[nded] during night – Johnson. Line [not] open east until after 10 am. Cloudy weather with higher barometer and colder.

High/low temperatures: 34/22; Maximum wind speed: 11 mph; Precipitation: Trace