South Dakota tornado risk

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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA TV) - Downed power lines, collapsed buildings, and fallen trees. That's just some of the destruction a significant storm caused while sweeping across Sioux Falls.

Here in South Dakota, tornadoes are not unusual. (KOTA)

And last month, tornadoes touched down in the town of Burke, destroying the school.

We hear about them often, but are tornadoes really that common in South Dakota?

Here in the state, tornadoes are not unusual. On Tuesday night, the National Weather Service said 3 EF2 tornadoes hit Sioux Falls.

"The state sees several tornadoes on average every year. 10, 20, 30 even sometimes," says National Weather Service Science and Operations Officer Matthew Bunkers.

From the recent tornadoes in Sioux Falls to one in Allen this past July and one in Spearfish Canyon in June of 2018, this is nothing new for the state.

Bunkers said it's uncommon to see a tornado hit in September, but it's not unusual.

"A lot of are tornadoes occur from mid-May through early August. They can occur as early as March and as late as October," says Bunkers.

Bunkers say the last tornado fatality in South Dakota was on June fourth in 1999 in Oglala.

"The detection of tornados is much better now, the messaging, the alerting, getting the message out to people is so much better now then it was 20 years ago," says Bunkers.

When natural disasters do hit, organizations like the Red Cross are prepared for the worst.

"We never know when they're going to happen. And we're going to provide those basic human needs. A safe place to go, food to have, and medical needs are what they provide. If there needs to be something done where we can evaluate somebody," says American Red Cross Central & Western SD Executive Director Richard Smith.

Smith says the best thing the community can do is stay alert.

"Pay attention to the weather, understand what is going on in local communities. So if something does happen, you're prepared and ready to take action immediately," says Smith.

Currently, the Red Cross in Sioux Falls is assessing the damage and will notify the public if they need anything.